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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Modi-Xi informal summit will aim to build on Wuhan spirit

PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend a cultural programme before Modi hosts a private dinner for Xi, both at the Shore Temple.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2019 07:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India has reacted strongly to what officials have described as China’s “pro-active stance” backing Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, and the recent postponement of talks between Special Representatives on the border dispute had even resulted in speculation about the fate of the informal summit.
India has reacted strongly to what officials have described as China’s “pro-active stance” backing Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, and the recent postponement of talks between Special Representatives on the border dispute had even resulted in speculation about the fate of the informal summit.(PTI FILE)
         

The second India-China informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the coastal resort of Mamallapuram is expected to give fresh momentum to bilateral ties that have been bedevilled by a string of irritants in recent weeks.

India has reacted strongly to what officials have described as China’s “pro-active stance” backing Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, and the recent postponement of talks between Special Representatives on the border dispute had even resulted in speculation about the fate of the informal summit.

Though both countries are yet to make a formal announcement about the informal summit, people engaged in arrangements for the meeting said the two leaders will meet in seaside temple town in Tamil Nadu, some 55 km from Chennai, during October 11-12.

The Chinese president is expected to fly into Chennai in the afternoon of October 11, following which Modi and Xi will visit heritage temples and monuments in Mamallapuram built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries. They will attend a cultural programme before Modi hosts a private dinner for Xi, both at the Shore Temple.

Though there will be no boat ride as at the first informal summit at Wuhan in 2018, the two leaders will get enough time on their own on October 12, the main day for discussions, the people cited above said. This will include an informal one-on-one meeting without a fixed agenda on the lawns of a seafront five-star resort in Mamallapuram.

There will also be delegation-level talks and a private lunch between the two leaders at the same resort, before Xi departs from Chennai. The overall duration of the second summit will be shorter than the first one.

Despite intense speculation about the fate of the summit following a string of problems between the two sides since August, an Indian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting was scheduled for October 11-12. However, the two sides are expected to make a formal announcement only on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The latest irritant was reported remarks by China’s envoy to Pakistan, Yao Jing, that Beijing would stand by Islamabad on issues such as Kashmir. “We are also working for Kashmiris to help them get their fundamental rights and justice. There should be a justified solution to the issue of Kashmir and China will stand by Pakistan for regional peace and stability,” Yao was quoted as saying by the Pakistani media.

India had verbally conveyed its protest over the remarks, two officials who didn’t want to be identified said.

People familiar with the thinking in Beijing said Yao’s remarks didn’t reflect the Chinese government’s stance. They said China is working for peace and stability in the region and hoped India and Pakistan could resolve their problems through dialogue and consultations.

They added that China was keen on ensuring a “positive atmosphere” for the summit. In an apparent bid to reinforce this stance, China’s envoy to India, Sun Weidong, tweeted: “Under the strategic guidance of our leaders, China-India ties made steady progress in recent past. Looking ahead, we should further unleash the positive effect of Wuhan informal summit, transmit leaders’ consensus to all level & gather positive energy for stronger bilateral ties.”

However, Indian officials pointed to a string of developments that they said went undermined efforts to create a positive atmosphere for a successful summit. In this regard, they especially highlighted China’s “proactive stance” backing Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

In addition to China’s opposition to the creation of the union territory of Ladakh after the revocation of J&K’s special status on August 5, India was irked when Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, raised the issue during his speech at the UN General Assembly last month, saying no unilateral action should be taken to change the status quo in Kashmir.

India had reacted to Wang’s remarks by saying the developments in Kashmir were “purely an internal matter” and that it expected other countries to “desist from efforts to change the status quo through the illegal so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”.

Earlier, Wang’s visit to New Delhi for the Special Representatives talks on the border dispute, expected on September 9, was called off and a visit by the head of the Indian Army’s Northern Command to China was put off.

China’s refusal to allow the Indian embassy in Beijing to hold an annual event to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary at a public park also irked India, though a Chinese official later said this was due to “technical reasons” related to celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of China.

On the other hand, China was upset by the Indian military exercise Him-Vijay in Arunachal Pradesh, during which the newly created integrated battle groups are being put to the test at heights of 15,000ft and about 100km from the Line of Actual Control. Beijing has also been irked by a military exercise in Ladakh, the upgrading of the Quad alliance to the ministerial level and India’s stance on Chinese activities in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Leading strategic affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney said the Mamallapuram summit would be more of a “face-saving event” for India and China, aimed at honouring the commitment to hold a follow-up to the summit in Wuhan though the timing wasn’t opportune for both sides.

“There have been a lot of developments since Doklam and some bad blood since the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir. Things were complicated because China was angered by the separation of Ladakh, which in Indian maps includes Aksai Chin. Then there were the Chinese actions at the UN and increased military forays into Ladakh,” he said.

“It’s a face-saving exercise because neither side can call off the meeting and it will not be productive in terms of results. Neither side wants to discontinue engagement, even if it isn’t result-oriented, because that is better than no engagement,” Chellaney said.