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Was China visit dropped to please Japan?

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Even as prime minister Narendra Modi on Sunday arrived in Tokyo for summit talks with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, India has quietly called off a meeting with foreign ministers of Russia and China in Beijing. Though, officially no one was available to explain the cancellation of Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Beijing to attend the tri-lateral ministerial conference, it is understood that the move was linked to Modi’s Japan visit, according to the DNA newspaper.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrives at the Parliament in New Delhi on Aug 13, 2014. (Photo: IANS)“Sushma was scheduled to travel to China for a two-day meet with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Both the Russian and Chinese diplomats in Delhi said they had received a communication on Friday that the minister would not be travelling to Beijing. They were at a loss to explain whether the meeting has been postponed for a later date. It seems Modi wanted to avoid any bickering during his Japan visit, on which he has put lots of stakes. The dispute of islands between Japan and China has become more prominent in recent years.

“On the international scene as well, both countries are political rivals. While India is engaged in the tri-lateral axis with China and Russia for over a long time, of late the US and Japan are trying hard to get New Delhi to participate in their tri-laterals. So far the government has permitted navy to participate in tri-lateral exercises with the US and Japan to enhance interoperability between the three forces. Once prime minister Modi and his Japanese counterpart upgrade the defence dialogue mechanism involving both foreign and defence ministers from the current level of foreign and defence secretaries during their summit talks. India will join selected countries like the US, Russia, Australia and France, with whom Tokyo has similar arrangement,” the report said

“Though, ministry of external affairs officials here say they would not be drawn into any dispute between its “friends” and would keep a fine balance, the unease in east Asia and tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine are testing their nerves. The tensions between president Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama have reached near-Cold War levels

“Both the Chinese president Xi Jinping and Putin will be arriving in India over next four months. While India had suggested dates around middle of September for Jinping’s visit, it is now understood that the Chinese government may now wait till president Pranab Mukherjee concludes his visit to Vietnam. India may, during Mukherjee’s visit, ink agreements with Vietnam to explore new oil and gas blocks in parts of the South China Sea, a move that could rile China. Its leaders in the past have publicly asked New Delhi to stay off from the resource-rich South China Sea,” it added.