PM Modi to meet Xi Jinping in major push to reset China ties
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit China this week for an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a move aimed at a major reset in relations between the neighbours, rocked by the 73-day-long Doklam military standoff last year.
The visit is being seen as an opportunity for both leaders to work out a new paradigm for bilateral ties weighed down by a slew of disputes and mutual distrust.
The surprise announcement came after talks on bilateral ties between Indian and Chinese foreign ministers in Beijing on the sidelines of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet in Beijing on Sunday. Besides his visit to China this week, Modi is also to travel to China again in June for a summit of SCO leaders in Qingdao.
“President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have an informal summit from the 27-28 April in Wuhan, Hubei province. The two leaders will have communications of a strategic nature...concerning the shifts going on in the world,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing. Describing it as a “new starting point in ties,” Wang said: “They will also exchange views on overarching long-term strategic matters concerning the future of China-India relations.”
According to two people familiar with the developments, the Modi-Xi meeting this week was the outcome of exchanges between the two sides since their last meeting in Xiamen in September.
India and China agreed to the summit and it was decided that Prime Minister Modi would visit Wuhan, said one of the people cited above when asked whether the summit had been convened at India’s instance and given that this would be at least the third visit by Modi to China since April 2015 without a high-level visit by either President Xi or premier Li Keqiang since then. Then Indian president Pranab Mukherjee also visited Beijing in May 2016.
In her remarks, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said that the Wuhan meeting “flows from the understanding reached by the two leaders” in Xiamen that “India-China relations are a factor of stability in a period of global changes and (that they) have a common responsibility for peace, security and prosperity in the world.”
“We believe that our commonalities outweigh our differences and that we must build on our convergences while seeking mutually acceptable resolution of our differences,” she said.
Wang added that India and China “have no choice other than pursuing everlasting friendship mutually beneficial cooperation and common development.” Going forward, the two sides would aim to increase strategic communication, deepen practical cooperation, “properly handle differences and enhance coordination in multilateral affairs,” Wang said.
Swaraj said Modi and Xi “will explore the future direction of the multifaceted engagement between the two countries.”
“While making efforts to progress our relations in diverse areas, we underlined that maintaining peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas is a prerequisite for the smooth development of bilateral relations,” Swaraj said, in a reference to a point that New Delhi views as a prerequisite for good ties with China.
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 in favour of China, 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 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.
During the Modi-Xi meeting in Xiamen, days after the end of the Doklam standoff, the two had agreed to turn the page on the Doklam standoff and move forward. Since then, the two sides have had several official level contacts—Wang visited India in December for a trilateral meeting, India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval met his Chinese counterpart for border talks Yang Jiechi and the two sides also held their fifth Strategic Economic Dialogue.