Pradeep Rawat to take over as India’s next envoy in China

The outgoing envoy, Mr. Misri, called on the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on December 6, a week before he returned to New Delhi.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday said Pradeep Kumar Rawat, a Mandarin-speaking career diplomat, will take over as India’s new envoy in Beijing.

Mr. Rawat, currently India’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, will replace Vikram Misri, who completed a close to three-year term earlier this month.

India’s next envoy in China will take charge amid the worst phase in relations since the normalisation of ties in the 1980s, with a crisis along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), triggered by transgressions by the Chinese military starting in April 2020, as yet unresolved and thousands of troops of both sides still deployed in forward areas.

Mr. Rawat is no stranger to the border tensions, having dealt with China in various capacities including as one of the senior-most officials in New Delhi handling China policy as the Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the MEA from 2014 to 2017.

Having joined the foreign service in 1990, Mr. Rawat chose Mandarin as his foreign language and first served in Hong Kong, and then in the capital of Beijing, between 1992 and 1997, according to an official profile. He continued to deal with China after his first stints there, returning to work in the East Asia Division for three years.

Mr. Rawat had a second four-year term in Beijing in 2003, initially as counsellor and then as the Deputy Chief of Mission, during a phase that coincided with two breakthroughs on the boundary question with the appointment of Special Representatives in 2003 and an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles in 2005.

The border talks haven’t made discernible progress since, while past understandings on the boundary have now been cast in doubt following the more than 18 month-long border crisis.

The outgoing envoy, Mr. Misri, called on the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on December 6, a week before he returned to New Delhi.

In the meeting, Mr. Misri “noted that our relations comprised both opportunities and challenges, and even though certain challenges since last year had overpowered the vast opportunities in the relationship, he was hopeful that with continued communication at all levels – political, diplomatic and military, the two sides would be able to resolve the current difficulties and take the relationship forward in a positive direction”, a statement from the Indian Embassy said.

The Chinese Foreign Minister put forward “three dos and three don’ts” for the relations, according a readout from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, saying both sides needed to “not misunderstand and misjudge”, to take a long-term view, and “build each other up and don’t wear each other out.”

Both sides have, however, differed on the way forward, with China dragging its feet on continuing the disengagement process, continuing a build-up of infrastructure along the border, and saying the boundary should be kept in an “appropriate place” in the relationship. India has made clear that a return to normalcy in relations will not be possible until a restoration of the status quo and a return to peace along the LAC.

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