Modi and Xi flag 'forward looking' ties after the close of the Doklam crisis

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing Countries, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Xiamen.   | Photo Credit: AP

Looking beyond the Doklam crisis, India and China on Tuesday decided to open a new “forward looking” round of engagement, anchored by fresh mechanisms to ensure calm at the borders.

With the recently resolved tense standoff between India and China in the Sikkim sector as the touchstone, visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during their one-on-one meeting agreed to establish new ways to prevent such incidents from recurring.

It appeared from a brief interaction with the media by foreign secretary S. Jaishankar after meeting that the focus was on border Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) , rather than on fresh ideas to resolve the festering boundary dispute between the two countries.

Analysts say that it remains to be seen whether the “constructive start” at Xiamen, will yield “solid anchorage” capable of withstanding the regional headwinds that India and China are likely to encounter in the future, as they deepen their ties in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific.

Yet, the meeting between the two leaders took place after a Monday joint statement of the BRICS summit, which concluded in Xiamen, for the first time, pointed to a positive convergence between India and China, on international terrorism.

Mr. Jaishankar said that the two leaders agreed that efforts should be made to ensure that "defence and security (personnel) must maintain strong contact and cooperation” at the borders. In a veiled reference to the Doklam face-off, he stressed that regular contacts at the frontiers were necessary to "ensure that (the) sort of situation which happened recently should not recur".

“I think one of the important points which were made in the meeting was that peace and tranquility in the border areas was a prerequisite for the further development of the bilateral relationship and there should be more effort to really enhance and strengthen the mutual level of trust between the two sides," Mr. Jaishankar said.

Mr. Jaishankar underscored that the two leaders had “laid out a very positive view of the relationship”. He added that they had held "a detailed discussion about the mechanisms which could help both countries really go forward in that direction". The foreign secretary pointed out that organisations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS could supplement interaction between the two countries at the “intergovernmental” level, to build a robust relationship in the future.

In China, there is a growing perception among a section of the intelligentsia that a closure of the Doklam crisis has opened a fresh round of calibrated bonding between the two countries. “The Xiamen summit is becoming a turning point in the positive trend in Sino-Indian relations,” says Mao Siwei, China’s former consul general in Kolkata, in a conversation with The Hindu.

He highlighted that China had become "more attentive to India’s concerns in the fight against terrorism," referring to the BRICS joint statement of Monday, where, for the first time, China, at the highest level, did not object the listing of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e –Taiba as international terror groups.

But Mr. Mao cautioned that listing of the extremist groups "does not mean that China has changed its position on Masood Azhar." In the past China has imposed a “technical hold” on the UN listing of Azhar, the head of the JeM as an international terrorist.

Mr. Jaishankar said that "it is natural that between large powers there would be areas of difference and it should be handled with mutual respect".

He added: "There was a reminder that (as) at Astana in early June, we had both agreed that we would not let differences become disputes and when the world was changing we would ensure that India-China relations were a factor of stability."  The foreign secretary was referring to the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Kazakhstan.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 2:04:29 PM |

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