New Delhi: India and China on Thursday expressed confidence that mutual trust between the two countries, rocked by a tense 73-day-long military standoff in Doklam last year, had grown in recent months as they outlined a calendar of high level contacts between the two countries to keep up the momentum of contacts. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi who met Chinese president Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg said they were “particularly satisfied by the efforts made by the two sides ....to strengthen this engagement."
Briefing reporters on the talks, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale described the Modi-Xi meeting, their third in four months as the two neighbours aim to reset ties strained by their face-off on the Doklam plateau a year ago, as “a very productive meeting."
“The two will meet again on the margins of the G20 meet in Argentina at the end of this year. In the meantime a number of ministerial visits will take place on both sides,"Gokhale said.
Both leaders also “reaffirmed their readiness to give the necessary direction to their militaries to enhance communications between them to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas," he said.
India-China ties have been bedevilled by a number of irritants —an unsettled boundary problem dating back to their brief but bitter 1962 war, a ballooning trade deficit against India, China’s close ties with India’s arch rival Pakistan and Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative running through disputed Kashmir that New Delhi says violates its sovereignty, to name a few.
Last year, however, Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in an unprecedented tense standoff that ended after 73 days —seen as an offshoot of their unresolved boundary problem. In a bid to stabilise ties bruised by the Doklam standoff, Modi and Xi held an informal summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on 27-28 April where the two sides agreed to “respect each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations," and to maintain peace and tranquillity along their common but yet to be demarcated frontiers.
In June, the two leaders met again on the margins of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in the Chinese city of Qingdao where they agreed on a further set of measures to boost mutual trust. These included announcements on meetings between their defence and home ministers and setting a bilateral trade target of $100 billion in trade by the year 2020.
On Thursday, Gokhale said that the Chinese ministers of defence and public security would pay visits to India in August and in October, respectively. The foreign ministers of the two countries are also expected to meet in New Delhi in October to take forward a plan to step up people to people interaction, he said. There will also be a meeting of the two special representatives who are discussing a solution to their boundary problem and this will take place in China,Gokhale said.
In a bid to bridge the trade deficit between India and China, that has zoomed to $ 50 billion in the past year, an Indian trade delegation will be travelling to China on 1-2 August, the foreign secretary said. The delegation would be looking at opportunities for India to export soya, sugar and non basmati rice besides looking at possible imports of urea from China, he said. Pharmaceuticals is an area of interest for Indian exports, he said adding that a delegation from this sector will be visiting Shanghai on 21-22 August. These together represented forward movement on a number of trade related issues that were of concern to India, he added.