Beijing: The plight of 21 Indian diamond
merchants from Gujarat languishing in Chinese jails since
January this year is expected to come up during talks between
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen
Jiabao in New Delhi.
Wen will arrive in New Delhi tomorrow on a three-day
visit, billed as a "significant event" by China.
The detention of the Indian merchants, who were
accused of smuggling diamonds into China through Hong Kong,
was expected to come up during Singh-Wen talks, sources said.
The merchants were held in a prison at the Chinese
city of Guangzhou and so far have not been formally charged,
Chinese authorities have permitted certain facilities
like providing vegetarian food and other facilities at the
request of Indian officials and family members of the
The issue figured during the strategic talks between
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Vice Chinese Foreign
Minister Zhang Zhijun here last month.
After the talks, she said several of the merchants
were not keeping well and efforts were on to find whether they
could be released after paying fine.
According to officials, the issue has become
complicated as India and China have no prisoner exchange
Asked during the briefing here today whether the
merchants detention would figure in Wen’s talks with Indian
leaders, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu said
she "cannot predict" what kind of issues will come up during
The talks between Wen and Indian leaders would focus
on promoting bilateral relations as well as regional and
international issues of common concerns in an "extensive
manner", she said.
The visit comes amid the bilateral row over stapled
visas for residents of Jammu and Kashmir that culminated in
denying visa to Chief of Indian Army`s Northern Command, B S
Jaswal. It prompted New Delhi to put on hold all defence
exchanges with China.