Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping set stage for deepening India-China ties at Wuhan summit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said cooperation between India and China is essential to maintain peace and stability around the world and offered to host the next informal summit between leaders of the two Asian giants.
Modi said he hoped his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the central Chinese city of Wuhan would open a new chapter in bilateral relations. The leaders are meeting for two days of candid talks, mostly without aides, in an effort to reset a relationship that was hit by the military standoff in Doklam, at the India-China-Bhutan trijunction, nearly eight months ago.
Following a one-on-one meeting earlier in the day at Hubei provincial museum in Wuhan, Modi and Xi were joined by small delegations for further talks. The delegation-level talks were expected to last for 30 minutes. Instead, they went on for two hours, an indication that both sides were keen on detailed discussions before Modi and Xi engage in three one-on-one conversations on Saturday.
Delivering his opening remarks at the delegation-level talks, Modi invited Xi to another informal summit in India in 2019 and said they should continue to meet in the same format.
“I hope such informal summits become a tradition between both the countries. I’ll be happy if, in 2019, we can have such [an] informal summit in India,” Modi said.
Xi too said he believed they can have more summits in the same format.
“We should look at the big picture of China-India relationship from the strategic angle and ensure our relationship continues forward in a positive direction. Friendship between the two countries should continue to grow like Yangtze and Ganges flowing forward forever,” Xi was quoted as saying by state-run CCTV.
“Looking ahead, we see a fast pace and bright future for China-India cooperation,” he added.
Modi, who reached Wuhan late on Thursday night, also coined a new acronym -- “STRENGTH” -- to underscore the importance of people-to-people contacts. At the delegation-level talks, he said such contacts could be taken forward through STRENGTH or “S-Spirituality, T-Tradition, Trade and Technology, R-Relationship, E-Entertainment (movies, art, dances), N-Nature conservation, G-Games, T-Tourism and H-Health and Healing”.
Modi also noted that it was possibly the first time that Xi had met another country’s leader twice outside the capital of Beijing. He was referring to his earlier meeting with Xi in Xian in May 2015. This, Modi said, was a sign of the importance Xi accorded to India.
Xi pointed out that good bilateral relations are important to maintain global peace and stability. “The growth of China-India relations has maintained good momentum,” he said.
Xi added they had achieved a lot in past years and met each other on many occasions. “Our two countries have established close partnership. Our exchanges and cooperation have made positive progress,” he said.
The Chinese President added that even as they were meeting in Wuhan, international security is at a crucial period of adjustment. “We are central pillars for promoting a multipolar and globalised world,” he said.
Xi said that looking ahead, the two counties need to maintain strong ties and focus on national development, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, work for their respective national revitalisation and make positive contributions for global peace and development.
Modi was received by Xi at the Hubei museum late on Friday afternoon. As a special gesture, Xi gave Modi a personal tour of the museum, where the two literally struck a chord when they tried their musical skills on a set of ancient bells.
They saw an exhibition of relics from the Chinese civilisation with a focus on local culture. Following the tour, the leaders were joined by their delegations for talks.
Following the talks, the leaders headed to an official dinner hosted by Xi at the East Lake state guesthouse in Wuhan.
Officials from the two sides have said Modi and Xi are expected to have “heart-to-heart” exchanges and chart a roadmap for bilateral consensus and understanding for the future.
Outcomes from the summit, repeatedly described as “informal” by Indian and Chinese diplomats, are not expected to be tangible. Deals will not be signed, nor will a joint statement be issued.
A statement is expected to be issued to the media by the Indian side at the end of the series of meetings. The absence of a joint statement doesn’t mean the leaders will not reach consensus on some issues, officials said.
The informal nature of the meetings is only to ensure that the two leaders can engage in a relaxed atmosphere with negligible diplomatic trappings, the officials added.
On Saturday, Modi and Xi will continue their discussions during a walk by the East Lake, which is expected to last 30 minutes. The walk will be followed by a boat ride for an hour on the East Lake, and then by a private lunch. Modi and Xi will be accompanied only by translators at these engagements.
The Chinese media reported on Friday that the meetings could improve bilateral ties.
“The tete-a-tete between the two leaders is going to set a stage for Beijing and New Delhi to further exchange views over long-term and strategic issues and to initiate fresh momentum for future bilateral cooperation,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.
“On global trade issues, both Xi and Modi have warned on different occasions of the dire threats of rising trade barriers to the world economy. China and India should firmly stick to the spirit of free trade so as to help maintain the current global free trading system with the World Trade Organisation at the centre,” it added.
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