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New Delhi: India and China on Saturday agreed to set up a new dialogue at the level of foreign secretaries to smoothen out recent wrinkles in their relationship that has resulted in ties between the two giants getting prickly.

The two countries also concurred on a special round of talks on India’s membership of the exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that China has opposed been to on the grounds that India has not signed the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

These decisions followed meetings between Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and the visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in New Delhi.

“Discussing issues of mutual importance. EAM @SushmaSwaraj meets with her counterpart Chinese FM Wang Yi in New Delhi," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted, along with a photograph of the meeting of the two foreign ministers.

There was readout of the meetings in New Delhi from the Chinese side.

According to a person familiar with the developments, Wang’s discussions in New Delhi that included a 20 minute meeting with prime minister Narendra Modi, were

“positive," and held in a “constructive and open spirit."

“The progress in bilateral ties reviewed, as also challenges on some recent issues," the person cited above said.

Wang who arrived in India on Friday, first stopped off in Goa, the venue of the forthcoming Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa or BRICS meeting in October where he met the Goa Chief minister Lakshmikant Parsekar and governor Mridula Sinha. Media reports have speculated that Wang’s visit was to review the logistics and security arrangements for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit in October for the BRICS summit.

“Recent issues" causing wrinkles in the India-China relationship include China’s opposition to India’s membership of the NSG and its reluctance to endorse an Indian

application to include the name of Pakistan based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar in a list to be sanctioned as a terrorist.

Both issues were taken up in Saturday’s meeting between Swaraj and Wang, the person cited above said.

There was a “lengthy discussion on India’s NSG membership," the person cited above said adding Swaraj “outlined importance of meeting our clean energy goals" in the context of India’s climate change commitments and “offered to discuss any technical issues China may have."

“It was agreed that the Director Generals of Disarmament of the two countries would meet soon," the person cited above said.

On China’s decision to veto an Indian request at the UN to get JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar declared a terrorist, Swaraj urged China to “revisit" its decision to veto India’s UN bid to get Maulana Masood Azhar a terrorist declared a terrorist, according to the person cited above.

India has previously said that it found it “incomprehensible" that while the Jaishe Mohammed was listed in the UN Security Council Committee for its known terror activities and links to the terrorist Al Qaeda outfit, the designation of the group’s main leader, financier and motivator as a terrorist had been opposed by China on flimsy technical grounds.

The Chinese move, seen done at the behest of China, had caused great unease in New Delhi. India also brought up its concerns vis a vis China’s plans to construct a $46 billion economic corridor that aims to link production centres in Western China by road to Pakistan’s Gwadar port for shipment to overseas markets.

India’s concerns stem from the fact that a part of the corridor runs through Kashmir -- which is disputed between India and Pakistan.

Apart from this, “the situation on the border was reviewed and further steps to strengthen peace and tranquility were discussed," the person cited above said, adding “a new mechanism at level of Foreign Secretaries agreed to discuss overall ties."

Regional and international issues including implications of Britain’s exit from the European Union and the China hosted group of 20 developed and developing countries’ meeting were among the other issues discussed.

But a recent international court ruling which said that China has no historical claims in the South China Sea—a region that Beijing claims almost in full as its territorial waters—was not discussed, the person cited above said.

India supports freedom of navigation in the area given that a little more than 50% of its trade with Asia passes through the crucial waterway. China on the other hand claims the entire stretch of water and advocates the principle of “territorial seas" ie ships passing through waters a country claims as its territorial seas have to seek the country’s permission.

Also Read: China says NSG door not shut on India, foreign minister Wang Yi in Delhi today

The international tribunal’s ruling came on 12 July and was in response to a case lodged by the Phiillipines in 2013.

Ahead of Wang’s visit, speculation had been rife that China would seek India’s backing for its position that such disputes be settled bilaterally rather than at international tribunals or be raised at multilateral levels.

“It is up to India what position it has to take," Wang said in response to a question put to him in Goa on whether he was in India to seek its support on the South China Sea dispute, according to news reports.

Prior to Wang Yi’s visit, a state-run Chinese daily has warned that India’s focus on the South China Sea will harm its ties with China and create obstacles for Indian businessmen.

“India may want to avoid unnecessary entanglement+ with China over the South China Sea debate during Wang’s visit if the country wishes to create a good atmosphere for economic cooperation, which would include reducing tariffs on made-in-India products exported to China amid the ongoing free trade talk known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership," the Global Times said in its editorial on Tuesday.

On Friday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency in a commentary said the door for India’s admission into the NSG was “not tightly" closed and New Delhi should “fully comprehend" Beijing’s concerns over the disputed South China Sea—seeming to suggest the possibility of a trade off between the two.

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