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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

After greeting Nawaz Sharif, PM Modi to meet Xi Jinping today at SCO Summit amid chill in India-China ties

PM Narendra Modi is expected to flag a host of issues that have bedevilled India-China ties.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2017 09:07 IST

Jayanth Jacob and Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Beijing
PM Narendra Modi with China’s President Xi Jinping before the BRICS Summit, in Goa on October 15, 2016.
PM Narendra Modi with China’s President Xi Jinping before the BRICS Summit, in Goa on October 15, 2016.(File Photo/PIB)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet China’s President Xi Jinping for the first time in nearly eight months at the margins of the SCO Summit in Astana this morning – and it could be their testiest encounter yet.

Modi is expected to flag a host of issues that have bedevilled India-China ties, including Beijing’s consistent blocking New Delhi’s efforts to sanction JeM chief Masood Azhar at the UN, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC) that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Despite these contentious issues, officials on both sides expressed some hope that Modi and Xi would at least try to put bilateral ties back on track in the lead-up to the BRICS Summit in Xiamen in September. Among other things, the two leaders are expected to stress the need for regular high-level interactions.

Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif earlier exchanged pleasantries amid frosty bilateral ties, deadlocked talks and escalation of hostilities along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

It was the first encounter between Modi and Sharif after their last meeting in Lahore on December 25, 2015, when the Indian prime minister made a surprise visit.

Diplomats noted that a recent statement from Modi was welcomed by China last week. “It is true that we have a border dispute with China. But in the last 40 years, not a single bullet has been fired because of the border dispute,” Modi said during a panel discussion at an economic event in St Petersburg.

But the differences between the two countries could yet dominate discussions in the Kazakhstan capital. With India giving special focus to terrorism at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, Modi will raise the issue of fighting terrorism in the region in a concerted manner.

This includes India’s efforts to list the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief under UN Security Council Resolution 1267, which have been repeatedly blocked by China.

Besides Azhar, several other issues have emerged as irritants in bilateral ties. India recently boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) meet in Beijing organised to showcase Xi’s flagship connectivity initiative and China has stymied India’s efforts to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the elite club that controls trade in nuclear technology.

India was easily the most notable absentee at the high-profile BRF in May that was attended by nearly 30 heads of state and representatives from other countries. China tried in various ways to convince India to join the forum but it boiled down to New Delhi’s sovereignty concerns on the CPEC passing through PoK.

India was also conspicuous by its absence at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) underway in Beijing, where several international delegates expressed surprise that nobody from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was present.

For its part, China was furious over the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s visit in April to Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as south Tibet. It didn’t help matters, as far as the Chinese were concerned, that the Dalai Lama also met President Pranab Mukherjee in December – the first time the Tibetan spiritual leader met a serving Indian president in several decades.

A number of ministerial visits from India are slated in the coming weeks. Minister of state for external affairs VK Singh is expected to attend the BRICS foreign ministers meeting to be held in Beijing during June 18-19.

This will be followed by a meeting of the National Security Advisers in Beijing during July 27-28.NSA Ajit Doval is also India’s special representative for the Sino-India border talks.

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 00:14 IST

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