Pranab to host dinner for Chinese foreign minister, NSG on menu (Lead)

September 7th, 2008 - 7:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is hosting a special dinner and a cultural show in honour of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi here Monday though the Indian leadership is also likely to express disappointment over Beijing’s perceived negative role in the NSG. Yang arrived in Kolkata Sunday on a three-day official visit - his first as foreign minister.

In New Delhi, Yang will have talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mukherjee and senior officials in the foreign policy establishment.

The Chinese side has sought a meeting between Yang and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi but it has not been finalised.

Reports from Vienna suggested that China, which initially refrained from saying much on the India-specific waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers group (NSG), started playing an “active role” to try to block a consensus before the nuclear cartel decided to give India the waiver Saturday.

According to some media reports, when just three countries - Austria, Ireland and New Zealand - were still opposing a clean waiver for India Friday night, the Chinese delegation saw a chance in blocking the waiver by asking the NSG not to hurry up the reports. It finally took a telephone call from US President George Bush to Chinese President Hu Jintao to melt Beijing’s reluctance to the NSG waiver.

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan was quick to react after reports of Beijing’s role in the NSG reached here. “The Chinese foreign minister will come hereā€¦ and we will of course express disappointment. We will say we did not expect this from China,” Narayanan told the Times Now channel.

He admitted that India was surprised by China because Chinese President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao had assured Manmohan Singh that Beijing would play a positive role in the NSG.

The Chinese are saying they never tried to block the NSG waiver. The fact that the NSG finally gave India the waiver shows Beijing did not block it, Chinese sources said.

They pointed out that China had only suggested that if no agreement can be reached within the two-day meeting of the NSG that began Thursday, another special session could be convened.

Experts are not surprised at what they call China’s “shadow boxing” in the NSG, with some saying it may revive trust deficit between the two countries.

“It’s going to widen trust deficit. The Chinese have a lot of explanation to do on their position in the NSG, which was in some sense to be expected,” Srikanth Kondappali, a China expert at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) here, told IANS.

“But at the same time we should remember that the Chinese have never been enthusiastic about the nuclear deal and have their fears that the deal may be used by the US to contain China,” he said.

K. Subrahmanyam, noted strategic expert, stressed that China needs to clear the air about these issues. “But we should not overreact. It may have been merely posturing to please their client Pakistan,” he added.

The issue may come up during discussions between Yang and the Indian leadership Monday. But Mukherjee is not sparing any effort to make his Chinese guest comfortable while he is here.

Yang and Mukherjee will review an entire spectrum of bilateral and global issues, including the decades-old boundary dispute, the UN reforms and ways to further intensify political and economic ties between the two countries.

Dates for the next round of negotiations between special representatives of the two countries are also likely to be set during their talks, official sources said.

The Chinese minister had broken away from past practices when he hosted a dinner for Mukherjee when he visited Beijing earlier this year at the ‘Forbidden City’ - an honour reserved for select world leaders.

A Kathak dance is part of the cultural event Mukherjee has planned for his Chinese guest before the two sides sit down to dinner here Monday evening. Yang is scheduled to arrive in the city that afternoon.

The focus will be on regional developments as well as international issues like world trade talks, energy security and climate change, on which the two sides have been working closely.

On Tuesday, Yang will deliver a lecture on the India-China “Strategic Partnership” at the Hyatt Regency hotel before leaving India.

India-China relations have shown an upward swing, especially since the Congress-led government came to power in Delhi in 2004. A number of high-level visits between the two sides have taken place in the four years, including one by President Hu and another by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

A number of senior leaders from India visited China this year. It started with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January, followed within a few months by Mukherjee.

Gandhi and her son and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited China in October 2007. This August, Sonia Gandhi along with her daughter Priyanka Vadra and her family were the guests of the Chinese government for the inaugural ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

The Congress and the Communist Party of China have also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance regular visits and close interaction among their leaders.

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