Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold an informal summit in China’s central city of Wuhan from April 27 to 28 to improve Sino-Indian ties. According to China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Prime Minister Modi will be visiting Wuhan at the invitation of President Xi. During the summit, Modi and Xi will try to formulate a new paradigm for India-China bilateral ties, which have been bogged down by a host of disputes and differences like last year’s Doklam standoff, informed sources told news agencies. Modi and Xi were expected to have a “heart-to-heart” chat and look at the big picture of bilateral ties, they added. The announcement comes amid External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to China for talks with Wang and to take part in Monday’s two-day foreign ministers meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
According to official statements from both sides, the Modi-Xi summit aims to create a broad framework for India-China ties and build trust between the two leaders.
The summit, though informal, will not shy away from issues of major strategic divergence between New Delhi and Beijing. Modi and Xi will have candid talks on the contentious issue of the latter’s pet project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — which includes the $50-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC has become a major stumbling block in India-China bilateral ties, with India holding the view that the Beijing-Islamabad venture does not respect India’s sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which India claims as a part of its territory. Modi and Xi will also explore ideas to address the contentious bilateral issue of the India-China border dispute.
The Modi-Xi Wuhan summit’s aim is to give an understanding at the top on the future course of India-China relations an “honest try”, sources told news agencies, adding that the summit was meant to navigate the maze of differences between the two nations and build strategic trust and communication between the two leaders. Announcing the summit, China’s Foreign Minister Wang said that Modi and Xi will have “communications of a strategic nature concerning the once-in-a-century shifts going on in the world”, adding that the two leaders “will also exchange views on overarching long-term and strategic matters concerning the future of China-India relations”. Sushma Swaraj, on India’s part, said that the informal summit will be an important occasion for Modi and Xi to “exchange views on bilateral and international matters from an over-arching and long-term perspective with the objective of enhancing mutual communication at the level of leaders”.
Here are the top ten developments around the Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit and what it means for India-China bilateral relations:
1) Modi-Xi summit will enhance chemistry between them, says Chinese envoy: Luo Zhaohui, China’s Ambassador to India, expressed hope that Modi-Xi Jinping summit later this week in Wuhan will enhance the “good chemistry” between the two leaders and strengthen India-China bilateral ties. In a video message on Twitter, Luo said that “the summit will highlight the personal friendship and enhance the good chemistry between the two leaders”, adding that he believed “with the guidance of our two leaders and through joint efforts of the Chinese and Indian people, including you and me, China-India relations will turn a new page”.
Looking forward to witnessing the upcoming historic informal summit between Chinese and Indian leaders. Truly an honor. Happy to share with you my views and experiences about #China-India# relations. pic.twitter.com/PuULD60GJK
— Luo Zhaohui (@China_Amb_India) April 22, 2018
Luo also said that Wuhan is his hometown and that it will be an honour for him to witness the “historic” event in the city. In a separate tweet, he said, “Smt. @SushmaSwaraj’s visit to China is part of the warm-up efforts for the informal summit between Chinese and Indian leaders.”
Smt. @SushmaSwaraj ‘s visit to China is part of the warm-up efforts for the informal summit between Chinese and Indian leaders. pic.twitter.com/HLDHG0wlnN
— Luo Zhaohui (@China_Amb_India) April 22, 2018
2) Beijing wants Modi-Xi summit to be ‘new milestone in the history of China-India relations’: How does China view the summit? China’s Foreign Minister Wang said that both sides were working on the meeting for a long time and would make sure that the informal summit was a complete success and a new milestone in the history of China-India relations. “In short, we will use the important meeting as an opportunity to achieve even better and faster growth in our bilateral relations from a new starting point,” said Wang.
According to Wang, Modi and Xi will have communications of a “strategic nature concerning (the) shift going (on) in the world”. The Chinese foreign minister added that they will exchange views on long-term and strategic matters that concern the future of China-India relations. “In our view, the global situation is undergoing a profound change and China and India are growing rapidly and simultaneously. This makes for a more balanced international geometry and a stronger trend towards peace,” he said.
Read our previous developments copy on the Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit: No more Doklam? Modi’s China visit to deal with border dispute: Top updates
3) India wants Modi-Xi summit to be about enhancing leaders’ ‘mutual communication’: How does India view the summit? EAM Sushma Swaraj said that Modi and Xi will have communications of a strategic nature during the Wuhan summit. “They will exchange views on long-term and strategic matters, concerning the future of China-India relations. We agreed that as the two major countries and large emerging economies, healthy development of India-China relations is important for the emergence of the Asian century,” she said.
“The informal summit will be an important occasion for them to exchange views on bilateral and international matters from an over-arching and long-term perspective with the objective of enhancing mutual communication at the level of leaders,” Sushma Swaraj said, according to news agency PTI.
EAM @SushmaSwaraj : The informal Summit will be an important occasion for them to exchange views on bilateral and international matters from an over-arching and long-term perspective with the objective of enhancing mutual communication at the level of leaders. pic.twitter.com/vD786LCelf
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 22, 2018
4) Modi-Xi summit will provide leadership driven-direction: The informal summit will involve a few officials at a picturesque location, where Modi and Xi plan to spend several hours exchanging their vision and perspectives about global and domestic scenarios, sources told news agencies. The two leaders will also explore ideas to address contentious bilateral issues like the border dispute, they added. All of this is meant to provide a leadership driven-direction and way forward to more stable India-China bilateral ties, making the upcoming meeting a leadership-driven summit, sources explained to news agencies. At the summit, Modi and Xi will try to work out a general framework for relations to move ahead without much of great expectations about the outcome.
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5) BRI, CPEC to be discussed at Modi-Xi summit: Given that this is an informal summit, no major agreements are expected to be reached. However, this does not mean that important India-China issues will not be taken up. At Wuhan, Modi and Xi will hold candid talks on the contentious issue of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is the latter’s pet project. The BRI includes the $50-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has become a major stumbling block in Sino-Indian bilateral ties.
India has protested against CPEC, saying that it does not respect its sovereignty as it is being laid through PoK.
ALSO READ: CPEC: Business, security headache for China, Pak
6) No change in India’s stance on CPEC, BRI so far: However, despite the visible signs of a thaw in Sino-India relations, New Delhi’s position on the BRI appears to remain unchanged. Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs said that China’s Belt and Road Initiative violated the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Responding to a query on media reports regarding possible cooperation with China over the BRI, MEA official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We have seen some media reports alluding to our possible cooperation with China in ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR)/’Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI). Our position on OBOR/BRI is clear and there is no change. The so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ (CPEC) violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality, and must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Kumar added.
ALSO READ: China denies “hidden” military bases on CPEC
7) Modi-Xi sumit to address India-China border dispute after Doklam: At Wuhan, Modi and Xi will address the contentious bilateral issue of the India-China border dispute. Ahead of the summit, during EAM Swaraj’s ongoing China visit, India said that maintaining peace along the border areas with China was an “essential pre-requisite” for smooth development of India-China bilateral ties. The statement comes in the backdrop of last year’s Doklam standoff, which saw Indian and Chinese forces face each other eye to eye as increasing escalatory statements emerged from Beijing.
“While making efforts to progress our relations in diverse areas, we underlined that maintaining peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas is an essential pre-requisite for the smooth development of bilateral ties,” Swaraj said in a press statement with Wang after their meeting. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday held crucial talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to reset India-China relations after the Doklam standoff. Following Doklam, both countries increased dialogue to scale down tensions and improve relations with talks at various levels.
So far, India and China have held 20 rounds of talks to resolve the boundary dispute and worked out different mechanisms to maintain peace along the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC).
ALSO READ: Sushma Swaraj’s China visit brings thaw in bilateral relations
8) Foreign Minister Wang Yi to be China’s new special representative for border talks with India: On Sunday, along with the announcement of the Modi-Xi summit, it was also revealed that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be the new special representative for India-China boundary talks. Wang’s appointment was confirmed on Sunday when EAM Swaraj, who held bilateral talks with her Chinese counterpart, congratulated him for being elevated as the state councillor and appointed as the special representative for the India-China boundary talks.
Together we prosper! EAM @SushmaSwaraj and State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi discussed all aspects of our bilateral relationship to strengthen India-China multifaceted engagement. pic.twitter.com/rALF4WFPYf
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 22, 2018
Wang, 64, succeeds his senior colleague Yang Jiechi, who has now become a politburo member of the Communist Party of China’s. Wang was elevated as state councillor last month, which makes him the top diplomat of the country in the Chinese hierarchy. He will be the first Chinese official in recent years who will hold the dual posts of State Councillor and Foreign Minister.
The State Councillor is designated as the Special Representative of the India-China boundary talks. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is India’s Special Representative. Special Representatives oversee all aspects of India-China relations besides the boundary issues and periodically review progress of bilateral ties.
Doval and Yang met in Shanghai on April 13, during which time they reportedly finalised the contours of the informal summit between Modi and Xi Jinping to be held in Wuhan city on April 27-28.
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9) Dalai Lama says Tibet can remain in China: While high policy might have taken the spotlight, another development occurred that impacts India-China ties. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said that Tibet can remain in China, but only if Beijing recognises and respects the region’s distinct culture and autonomy.
Speaking at a lecture on ‘Role of Ethics and Culture in Promoting Global Peace and Harmony’ in New Delhi, the Dalai Lama said, “Historically and culturally, Tibet has been independent. China took control of Tibet in 1950 in what it called a ‘peaceful liberation’. So, as long as the Constitution of China recognises our culture and Tibetan autonomous region’s special history, it (Tibet) can remain there.”
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10) From CPEC to Masood Azhar, many challenges ahead: While there appears to be optimism on both sides over the Modi-Xi summit, a range of issues will need to be addressed for better India-China ties. Apart from the border dispute, a number of issues plague India-China bilateral ties. China’s opposition to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its application at the United Nations to declare Pakistan-based terrorist group chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist are some of the irritants that have hampered Sino-Indian ties in the recent past. The key artery of Xi Jinping’s BRI — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — is another sticking point in China-India ties.
With agency inputs