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Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Feb. 2, 2015 (AP photo by Rolex Dela Pena).

Fresh Off Obama’s India Trip, China’s Xi Courts Modi

Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015

China has wasted no time in mounting its own charm offensive to woo India in the aftermath of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi last week. An India Today headline sums it up: “As Modi hugs Obama, China sends a quick flying kiss.” Beijing’s riposte should remind U.S. officials who continue to bank on India’s suspicions of China not to assume that Obama’s trip was sufficient to reset the U.S.-India partnership. China’s reception for Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who arrived in Beijing this past weekend for consultations with her Russian and Chinese counterparts, sends a clear signal that Chinese President Xi Jinping is determined to chart a new course in relations between “the dragon and the elephant.”

Just as Modi broke with tradition to personally greet Obama at the airport—seen as a not particularly subtle indication of Modi’s interest in getting relations back on track—Xi also dispensed with traditional Chinese diplomatic protocol to receive Swaraj. Generally, visiting foreign ministers have meetings with their counterparts and perhaps the prime minister, with only the representatives of the major powers having the possibility of a direct meeting with the head of state. Having the Chinese president receive the Indian external affairs minister is a recognition of India’s position as one of the great powers, a balance to the American decision to set up a “hotline” between the U.S. and Indian heads of government. Moreover, in the communique of the 13th annual Russia-India-China trilateral meeting, China moved closer to supporting India’s bid for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council, which, while it does not represent a full endorsement, is a shift from Beijing’s previous full-scale opposition. ...

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