New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, their third such interaction within the space of four months as the two countries look to reset ties after a tense military standoff last year.

The meeting between the two is expected to ensure that relations between the giant neighbours remain stable and frictions are kept to a minimum almost a year after their militaries were locked in a face-off—seen as their most serious in years—on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. The tensions were triggered mainly due to disagreements over their undemarcated border—a legacy of their 1962 war.

“I think Modi and Xi will reconfirm the understanding reached in Wuhan," said C.U. Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies think tank in New Delhi.

It was in Wuhan in central China in April that India and China agreed “to handle the differences through peaceful discussion within the context of the overall relationship, bearing in mind the importance of respecting each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations."

In June, when Modi and Xi met on the sidelines of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in Qingdao, the two countries agreed on a further set of measures to boost trust and confidence in their relationship. 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.

To boost economic and commercial linkages, China agreed to import sugar and non-basmati rice from India. India on its part announced it would grant Bank of China a licence to open a branch in Mumbai.

Despite the positive momentum in bilateral ties, China was seen as consolidating its strategic space in South Asia with a grant of $295 million to Sri Lanka, according to a Reuters report over the weekend. There have also been reports that senior Chinese officials have been on a visit to Bhutan with the intention of persuading the Himalayan country to join China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative —a network of land and sea links with South-East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou and China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui were part of the delegation that called on the Bhutanese leadership and discussed the situation along the China-Bhutan-India border in Doklam. Kong met Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, besides foreign minister Damcho Dorji.

India has been worried about the increased Chinese push into what it sees as its sphere of influence in the countries of South Asia which includes Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

Bhaskar termed the Chinese moves in South Asia -- seen as happening despite the thaw in Wuhan -- as Beijing “maximising its advantages in the region." This was something China was unlikely to scale back, he added.

Close