When 77-year-old Wang Qi, a former People’s Liberation Army surveyor who accidentally strayed into India in 1963, landed in Beijing this morning after 54 years, he had two unusual guests waiting for him at the airport. Thelma John David and Siddharth Malik, second secretaries at the Indian embassy in Beijing, are part of a diplomatic mission that had only Thursday formally protested China’s efforts at shielding Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar from UN sanctions. But early on Saturday morning, they greeted Wang and his son Vishnu at the airport before accompanying them, along with officials from China’s foreign ministry, on a joint visit to Wang’s hometown Xianyang in Shaanxi province, 30km upstream from Xi’an. Wang – whose journey starting from his entry and capture in India, through the decades he has raised his family with an Indian wife in a Madhya Pradesh hamlet, gained public prominence following a BBC report – is not an Indian citizen. He still holds a Chinese passport and India had already facilitated access to him and his family, Indian citizens, for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi. Wang and his son are expected to return to India after meeting their extended family. But the visit to the Beijing airport and then Xianyang by two Indian embassy officials was a part of a publicly emphasised humanitarian gesture. That gesture itself belongs to an emerging pattern India is relying on to keep diplomacy alive amid a confluence of heightened tensions with its two largest neighbours, China and Pakistan, and global uncertainty following Donald Trump’s victory as US President.
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Newsline: India-China Bhai-bhai diplomacy