In a first, India was represented by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju as part of its delegation in a bilateral security meet with China. Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, a state China claims its own, has never been part of any talks with China since it could be read as Beijing forfeiting its claims on the North-Eastern state of India.
On Monday, India and China held talks on internal security with the Indian delegation led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the Chinese team led by Zhao Kezai, China’s Minister of Public Security.
“Yes, I was part of the Indian delegation,” said Rijiju confirming his attendance.
Sources have told India Today that Kiren Rijiju was initially part of the delegation but upon the insistence of the Chinese side his name was dropped. But, later while the restricted dialogue was underway between Rajnath Singh and Zhao Kezai, the junior minister was called in to participate in delegation-level talks. He was also part of the document signing, said a source privy to the developments.
“We did make strong representation to object this arrangement and asked for correction of this wrong move,” a Chinese source said.
Rijiju hails from Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers as “disputed” territory. China does not issue a regular visa to people from Arunachal Pradesh but gives staple visa, which India has been protesting strongly.
Asked for a comment, home ministry spokesperson confirmed Rijiju’s presence but pleaded ignorance to any protest from the Chinese side. He was present at the signing of the agreement. “But I am not aware of any displeasure expressed by the Chinese side,” he said.
China time and again has protested against any high-level visit to Arunachal but relations between India and China spiralled downwards drastically in April 2017 when Kiren Rijiju accompanied the Dalai Lama to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. China had warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its territorial sovereignty and interests after India “obstinately” allowed the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit the “disputed” parts of the Northeastern state, causing “serious damage” to the bilateral ties.
In the meeting held on Monday, both the sides raised their concerns regarding security in the area. Sources say that India raised the issue of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and China, on the other hand, raised the issue of terror groups in the North-East of India. The issue of security concerns and conflict in Xinjiang province of China were also discussed.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed issues of mutual interest, including bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation, and welcomed increased cooperation between India and China in the area of security cooperation, said an MHA statement.
An agreement on security cooperation between the Ministry of Home Affairs of India and the Ministry of Public Security of China was also signed by the two ministers. The agreement will further strengthen and consolidate discussions and cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism, organized crimes, drug control and other such relevant areas.
Zhao Kezhi is on a bilateral visit to India from 21 to 25 October, 2018, during which he will also travel to Mumbai.