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BRICS Summit a chance for PM Modi and Xi to thaw the Doklam chill

How to take ties forward post-Doklam and prevent similar face-offs in the future are likely to be touched upon when Modi meets Xi on the sidelines of the summit.  

world Updated: Sep 03, 2017 08:33 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Xiamen
BRICS Summit,Prime Minister Narendra Modi,President Xi Jinping at
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures while talking with China's President Xi Jinping during the BRICS leaders' meeting with the BRICS Business Council in Goa on October 16, 2016. (AFP File)

A meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the BRICS Summit could provide temporary relief from the chill in China-India ties due tothe two-month military standoff in Doklam that ended only this week.

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) forum is an opportunity for the leaders of India and China to smoothen new wrinkles that have appeared in ties already marred by a festering border dispute and lack of mutual trust over multiple issues.

How to take ties forward post-Doklam and prevent similar face-offs in the future are likely to be touched upon when Modi meets Xi on the sidelines of the summit. Rebuilding ties immediately will, for course, be tough given the heat generated by the standoff.

But Modi, who is reaching Xiamen on Sunday, and Xi have the chance to set it on the right path, Chinese experts told Hindustan Times.

“Post-Doklam China-India relations are in a low point that we haven’t experienced in recent one or two decades. Now what we need to do immediately is to rebuild the trust between the two countries – between the two leaderships and among the two people as well. In that sense, BRICS summit offers a much-needed opportunity,” said Guo Suiyan, deputy director and South Asia expert with the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.

The standoff “inevitably hurt the bilateral relations and left one more open scar which is very deep. The most direct impact of the standoff is on the process of confidence building between the two countries,” Guo added.

There is little doubt that the military impasse – and the fear of escalation it had triggered – is as fresh as the footprints left by border troops in Doklam and will weigh down ties.

“It should be said that during the standoff, China showed great restraint and patience. India’s withdrawing (of border troops) builds a friendly and harmonious atmosphere for Modi's visit to China,” Hu Zhiyong from the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said.

Some in China are still smarting from the resolution of the standoff – Indian border personnel managed to stay on Chinese territory for two months and leave without any retaliation from the mighty PLA.

“(The impression created is that) whether the road is built or repaired or not, the Indian side will come and go at random. It will also set a precedent, which will be doubly harmful to China,” said Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert.

That’s exactly what Modi and Xi need to address: be able to convince domestic constituencies that no one lost out in the resolution of the impasse.

“Seeking common ground while putting aside differences, and developing together” are the broad parameters that the two leaders could discuss, Hu said.

“To be realistic, I think we shouldn’t expect China-India relations to be back to the high point like pre-2014 period. From the Xi-Modi meet during the BRICS summit – if they meet – we shouldn’t expect anything concrete coming out from this meeting, but the two leaders need to tell the world that this (Doklam) incident has politically ended,” Guo said.

At least for now.

First Published: Sep 02, 2017 18:11 IST