India sends foreign minister to China after Obama visit

Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida (left) shaking hands with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj prior to a meeting in New Delhi, on Jan 17 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida (left) shaking hands with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj prior to a meeting in New Delhi, on Jan 17 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's foreign minister will travel to China this weekend, New Delhi said on Wednesday, a day after Barack Obama ended a visit aimed at renewing US ties with the South Asian country.

Sushma Swaraj will go to Beijing on Sunday to "discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of concern to both sides" with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, India's government said in a statement.

They will also hold three-way talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the statement said.

The announcement followed a high-profile visit to New Delhi by the US president aimed at cementing ties between the two countries, which share an interest in curbing China's growing regional influence.

Although neither side mentioned China by name during Obama's three-day visit, the US president welcomed what he called a "greater role for India in the Asia Pacific" and said freedom of navigation in the region must be upheld.

Beijing claims sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea, home to maritime lanes that are vital to global trade.

India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely seen as taking a more assertive line on China than the previous government.

But experts say Modi will be careful not to alienate neighbouring China, whose investment he desperately needs as he tries to boost India's economy.

Obama and Modi took pains to demonstrate their personal rapport during the US president's visit. But China's state news agency Xinhua has said it was a "superficial rapprochement", pointing to persistent differences on issues such as climate change.