The message was conveyed by the prime minister at a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang. Hangzhou is a well-known tourist destination, as well as home to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd.
During the talks, Modi seemed to have touched upon irritants that had cropped up in ties in recent months, including China’s opposition to India’s membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its veto on a move by India to add Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-E-Mohammed’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar to an international blacklist of terrorists at the United Nations.
Modi condemned the 30 August attack on the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek in which a suicide bomber crashed his car at the entrance of the mission before blowing himself up, according to a Reuters news report.
Briefing reporters on the Xi-Modi meeting, their second in less than three months, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said Modi had drawn attention to the “continuing scourge of terrorism" and stressed that “the response to terrorism must not be driven by any political consideration".
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India blames Jaish-e-Mohammed for the 2 January attack on the Pathankot air force base and says Pakistan was behind China’s veto over the UN blacklist.
Swarup quoted Modi as saying that he always had “a strategic vision for India-China relations."
“Both countries would have to be sensitive to (mutual) strategic concerns," Modi had told Xi, Swarup said. Both countries would also have to accord “respect for each other’s aspirations, concerns and strategic interests", Swarup said.
Xi, on his part, said, “China is willing to work with India to maintain their hard-won sound relations and further advance their cooperation," the Press Trust of India reported.
Modi’s remarks on strategic interests come against the backdrop of Chinese objections to India’s aim to join the ranks of the NSG. China had blocked India’s entry into the group, stating that it had not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or NPT, a contention India views as spurious.
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India has also raised concerns about a $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India claims the whole of Kashmir as its territory and has protested developmental activities undertaken by China in the region at Pakistan’s request.
Modi’s comments also come against the backdrop of China seeking India’s support for its position on the South China Sea dispute after a Hague tribunal last month dismissed Beijing’s claims over almost all of the channel. A visit by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to New Delhi last month after the verdict was seen as aimed at ensuring India does not side with countries like the US and Japan that have been critical of Beijing’s claims. India in its response had urged all parties to the dispute to abide by the tribunal’s verdict—without naming any country.
According to Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the content of the message sent by India to China during the Modi-Xi meet was nothing new. “What is new is that the contents of the exchange are being made public," Kondapalli said.
India-China ties have been mired in mutual suspicion for decades—mainly stemming from a boundary dispute and China’s professed “all-weather friendship" with Pakistan.
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The boundary dispute dates back to a brief but bitter border war between the two countries in 1962. China claims 90,000 sq. km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and occupies a region of about 38,000 sq. km in Jammu and Kashmir that is known as Aksai Chin, according to India. Also, under a China-Pakistan boundary agreement signed in March 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km of Indian territory, an area north of the Siachen glacier, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China.
While the India-China boundary has been largely calm thanks to pacts signed in 1993, 1996 and 2005, the two sides frequently accuse each other of military incursions. In 2013, they signed an agreement on a border defence mechanism to ensure that potentially volatile situations are defused quickly.
Incursions at Demchok and Chumar in Ladakh in 2014 cast a shadow over President Xi’s visit to New Delhi in September 2014. In 2013, an incursion in April-May in the Depsang, Ladakh, had threatened to derail a visit to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.