Modi-Xi informal meeting to boost confidence

By Rabi Sankar Bosu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 6, 2018
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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit an exhibition of cultural relics at Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei province, April 27, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

The April 27-28 informal summit hosted by the Chinese President Xi Jinping for the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, may not have led to the resolving of all differences but it has brought in a vernal breeze in bilateral ties after a bad year of disputes and differences.

There was no strict governance of protocol; there was no other person present in the meeting of the two state leaders except a pair of interpreters. The very inclusive meeting was aimed at building a foundation of confidence for domestic diplomacy in a natural environment.

The Modi-Xi meet is simple but the canvas of such a type of unstructured tete-a-tete is of great symbolic significance at a time when Sino-Indian relations seem to be at a critical phase. It was observed that the informal summit included two meals hosted by Xi for Modi, a museum visit, a boat ride on the beautiful East Lake and a lakeside stroll.

But the most important thing has emerged from the two days of meetings is that a new framework has been set up by both leaders for building trust between the two largest countries in the region. A note of optimism was echoed by Ma Zhanwu, the consul-general of China in Kolkata, India, "After the Donglang stand-off a new chapter has begun with the Wuhan informal summit between the leaders of the two countries."

Whether the bilateral confidence which was strained considerably due to the Donglang (Doklam) stand-off last summer has returned or not, will be clear in the near future. But it's true that the Wuhan dialogue has apparently provided some fresh air into the bilateral relationship as evidenced by the public appearances and the statements by the two leaders. They spoke of the need to resolve their differences "with due respect for each other's sensitivities, concerns and aspirations." And this is what well over two billion people on both sides of the Himalayas actually want. Hopefully, the two leaders in their "heart-to-heart talks" attempted to cool off the heat over unresolved issues that have blighted Sino-Indian ties recently.

It has been learned that both leaders discussed strategic military relations, trade, tourism, communication and development-related concerns in addition to several regional and international issues. Hailing strong Sino-Indian ties, Modi posted his opinion on Twitter and said, "Productive discussions over tea. Strong India-China friendship is beneficial for the people of our nations and the entire world." Xi said that both sides should develop Sino-Indian ties from a strategic perspective, constantly enhance mutual understanding and trust, and promote all sectors and people of the two countries to deepen mutual understanding and cultivate friendly feelings.

However, it's unfortunate that while the two leaders were charting the course of long-term bilateral development, the Modi-Xi affability is being strongly criticized by India's opposition parties as well as a section of political analysts. The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party slammed the Narendra Modi government for not confronting Beijing over Chinese activities at the Doklam site and cross-border disputes. Rahul Gandhi questioned Modi's "No Agenda" China Visit, "Modi did not speak a single word on Doklam during his visit to China. What kind of prime minister is he? He had tea with Chinese President and held meeting without a single agenda."

On the other hand, Indian analysts say Mr. Modi needs Mr. Xi more than Mr. Xi needs Mr. Modi. "Modi is fixated on winning next year's election in India. And it is a measure of the fraught relationship between China and India right now that he is seen as needing Mr. Xi's help to do that," said Manoj Joshi, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

But according to the Indian statement on the Modi-Xi informal summit, it is heartening to note that the two leaders agreed to issue "strategic guidance" to their militaries to build trust and enhance "predictability and effectiveness" in managing border affairs. In reality, it's unrealistic to expect a settlement on the sticky border issue overnight. As such, strengthening communication through dialogue and diplomacy is very important to maintain peace along the 4,000-km-long border between the two Asian giants as the Chinese saying goes: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

There is no denying that the relationship between India and China is the most important in the world today. The two countries represent 40 percent of the world's population. As such, to tackle the major problems in the world, the two countries should work together. Needless to say, the Modi-Xi meeting has reinvigorated the mechanisms of engagement for the development of Sino-Indian relations.

Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, West Bengal, India

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

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