The Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summit in Wuhan on Friday will focus on “the picture” and the way ahead for the bilateral relationship, and not on the specific irritants that have bedeviled ties.
This won’t be a platform for them to discuss specific, whether be it India’s efforts to extradite Nirav Modi from Hong Kong, or the on-going effort to sanction the Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar. Sources have told India Today TV that there are going to be no “joint statements” or signing of “agreements” after the meeting between PM Modi and President Xi.
A source said, “The objective of this meeting was not to come out with a pre-negotiated set of agreement but to have clear communication at leadership level. It is going to be broadbased, overarching and not specific in its content.”
While there is no set agenda, both leaders would strive to normalise ties to ensure forward movement in ties which started on a very positive note when Modi had taken office.
There are a range of concerns that India has beginning with the huge imbalance of trade tilted in favour of China, the unresolved boundary question, BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) that runs through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) violating India’s territorial integrity, banning of Masood Azhar at the UN, to India’s bid for membership at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the question of sharing hydrological data and Chinese projects on river Brahmaputra.
India has made it amply clear that there is a fundamental problem with OBOR/BRI, and while China calls it an “economic” project, there is going to be no forward movement till the time PoK is part of the project.
They would discuss the larger context of these issues, for instance, on their shared concerns on terrorism, even if the PM is unlikely to name Azhar when he speaks with Xi. Both sides worked all aspects of this informal meeting out before the announcement was made.
The messaging between the two leaders began after de-escalation of the 73-day long military standoff in Doklam. Sources say, “In Doklam, the issue was the construction of road by the Chinese. The very limited objective of the Indian government was that the construction does not prejudice the tri-junction site. The issue is what is happening at our point of concern which is that there has been no activity since August 28.”
Both sides had started working on ensuring each others’ sensitivities are taken care of.
One such occasion for India, according to a source, came up during the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama coming to India. India showed the commitment given in 1988 by then PM Rajiv Gandhi recognising “Tibet as part of China” and not allowing “anti-China activities” on Indian soil.
Sources say that the February 22 letter of Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale advising government officials to stay away from any of the Dalai Lama events was essentially because “events that were being held were in no way religious in nature”.
“They were political in nature. In light of that the communication was put out.” On Tuesday, Chinese State media said the visit could be as significant as Rajiv Gandhi’s icebreaking 1988 visit to China.
“The meeting can be as significant as the one in 1988 when Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi met, and will set the course for bilateral ties,” the Global Times said in an editorial.
“China and India cooled down soon after the Doklam standoff which indicates the solid foundation for ties,” it added.