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PM Modi, Chinese President Xi to meet for the 4th time this year at G20 Summit in November

Argentina is hosting the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. This will be the fourth meeting between the two leaders this year.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2018 23:17 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Beijing
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg on July 26, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg on July 26, 2018.(AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping will meet for the fourth time this year on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina next month, the Chinese envoy said on Monday as the two countries launched their first joint development programme for Afghanistan.

India and China have worked assiduously to put their relationship on an even keel after the military standoff at Doklam last year, with an informal summit between Modi and Xi at Wuhan in April providing direction to future ties, including cooperation in war-torn Afghanistan.

Addressing the inauguration of the first India-China joint training programme for a batch of 10 Afghan diplomats at the Indian Foreign Service Institute, ambassador Luo Zhaohui said bilateral relations are “now on a fast track”. The programme is also “an implementation of the consensus” reached at Wuhan, he said.

Modi and Xi have met twice since their informal summit in Wuhan – on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Qingdao in June, and the sidelines of the Brics Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July.

Besides the fourth meeting between Modi and Xi in November, there will be several high-level visits by Chinese officials. “At the end of this week, Chinese state councillor and minister of public security Mr Zhao Kezhi will visit India.

In December, Chinese state councillor and minister of foreign affairs Mr Wang Yi will visit India and launch the first meeting of the China-India High Level People-to-People Exchanges Mechanism,” Luo said.

In a message read out to the gathering, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said India and China were “chartering a new course with the beginning of a training programme” for Afghan diplomats, which marks the “beginning of what we visualise as a long-term trilateral partnership”.

This is the first time that India and China, engaged in a tussle for influence across South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, have cooperated in a third country. India has committed more than $3 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and has launched a major trade and transit corridor centred round the Iranian port of Chabahar.

China is perceived as being on the side of all-weather ally Pakistan, which has unsuccessfully tried to get the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the violence even as it works to reduce India’s influence in Afghanistan.

After being trained in India, the Afghan diplomats will travel to China to be tutored in diplomacy. “This project marks the formal start of Sino-Indian-Afghanistan cooperation and the development of Sino-Indian cooperation in new areas,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued in Beijing.

Luo quoted China’s foreign minister Wang Yi as saying that the training of the Afghan diplomats reflects the “closer coordination and cooperation” between the two sides on regional affairs and “represents a positive development in China-India relations”.

“It is a testament to the joint aspiration and endeavour of China and India, both being major, responsible developing countries, to contribute to regional peace and stability,” Luo cited Wang as saying.

Luo suggested India and China should extend their cooperation from Afghanistan to other countries in the region.

“This is just the beginning…For example, India has remarkable edge in agriculture and medical services, and China in hybrid rice and poverty reduction. I am sure that in the future days, China-India cooperation in Afghanistan will span from training programmes to more concrete projects,” he said.

The cooperation should be extended to Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Iran and Myanmar. “We can also join hands under the mechanisms of Saarc, Bimstec and BCIM to promote regional peace, stability and prosperity,” he added.

Swaraj further said in her message that India is committed to partner with Afghanistan for a development partnership based on the priorities of the Afghan government and people. India has taken up projects such as the Lalandhar dam that will supply drinking water to Kabul and provides scholarships and training programmes for more than 3,500 Afghan nationals every year.

C Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies, said it was clear that China is reaching out to India “in more ways than one”, especially against the backdrop of tensions with the US. “There is a political and strategic dimension to this and the trade war with the US is one of the factors behind this outreach by China,” he said.

“Such statements are welcome but at the same time, India has some core concerns about China, including a complex territorial dispute and its support for Pakistan on the issue of terror,” he added.

First Published: Oct 15, 2018 11:58 IST

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