PM Modi and Pres Xi ‘did not have bilateral meeting’ at G20 summit in Germany: China
China on Monday sought to play down a brief conversation Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping had on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit, saying the two “did not have a bilateral meeting”.
Technically, China is correct but the fact is the Indian side didn’t claim the two leaders held a bilateral meeting, which is usually a structured and previously agreed engagement.
“I can tell you there was no bilateral meet between President Xi and PM Modi in Germany,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular media briefing when asked about the meeting.
The conversation between the two leaders at an informal gathering of BRICS leaders on the margins of the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7 lasted about five minutes and made headlines. It came against the backdrop of a tense standoff between troops of the two countries along India’s northeastern frontier.
China’s denial of something that didn’t happen is being seen as yet another attempt by Beijing to make its displeasure known over the face-off in Donglang or Doklam region.
“According to my information, the two leaders did not hold any bilateral meeting (on the sidelines of the G20 summit),” Geng said, adding Xi chaired the informal meeting of BRICS leaders that was attended by Modi and others.
Repeatedly denying the bilateral meeting, Geng also didn’t mention the conversation the two leaders had.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay had on July 7 tweeted a photo of the two leaders smiling and shaking hands. He said Modi and Xi had a “conversation on a range of issues”.
The link to the standoff was not hard to draw, as Geng again said the withdrawal of Indian troops from Donglang, the Chinese name for the region, was a precondition for resolving the military impasse.
Responding to a question about Indian media reports that soldiers were prepared for the long haul in Donglang, Geng said the reports, if true, revealed India’s true intentions.
“If (the reports) are true, then that only proves that the illegal trespass by the Indian side is organised and deliberate. They intended to destroy and damage the status quo at the boundary area of China and India. So how can diplomatic solutions happen under such circumstances?” he said.
“We stressed many times that we urged the Indian side should withdraw their troops back to the Indian side of the boundary. This is the precondition for any meaningful dialogue between the two sides.”
Geng added: “The diplomatic channel remains unimpeded, we hope the Indian side can take concrete measures. Now the Indian side is violating the international conventions (and) norms and we demand (India should) bring back their troops as soon as possible.”
China has accused Indian soldiers of trespass and preventing its troops from building a road in Donglang, which is under Chinese control but claimed by Bhutan.
The region is located at the narrow but strategically important tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan, with the three countries barely separated by mountains and passes.
Geng contended China has the right to construct roads in the region. “China’s road construction in Doklam is normal construction on our territory which is legitimate, reasonable and lawful,” he said.
Chinese state media has also claimed that India “planned” the trespass to coincide with Modi’s meeting with President Donald Trump to convey to the US that New Delhi is ready to check China’s rise.
Modi met Trump on June 26, ten days after the standoff began.