Modi’s meetings with Li, Xi not finalised


Prime Minister Narendra Modi will kick off his 11-day foreign tour on Tuesday with his first stop being the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw.

Mr. Modi will attend the ASEAN summit and the East Asian Summit and will meet regional leaders, including Myanmar President Thein Sein and Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi there. But officials refused to confirm if he would meet his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, setting off speculation that bad blood between India and China would spill over on to his “eastern outreach.”

Relations between the two countries had been at a low ebb since the Chumar standoff at the Line of Action Control during President Xi Jinping’s visit to India.

Despite the two leaders agreeing during the visit to appoint special representatives to take forward the next round of border talks, there has been no announcement so far, and only the working group on border affairs has been able to meet.

Beijing and New Delhi have crossed swords over relations with the neighbours in recent weeks as well, with China expressing concern over India’s naval defence plans with Vietnam, while India has expressed concern over the docking of a Chinese submarine at the Colombo harbour.

Officials said Mr. Modi’s programme for November 12 and 13 was still “being fixed,” leaving the question over whether he and Mr. Li would meet in Naypyidaw on the sidelines of the East Asian Summit. Mr. Modi had earlier declined Mr. Xi’s invitation to attend the APEC summit next week as well, but will attend the G-20 summit in Brisbane along with Mr. Xi and other major world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

At the ASEAN and EAS summits, Mr. Modi will push for more connectivity and bilateral trade in the region, say officials. Briefing reporters, Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa said the last country of the 10-member ASEAN group, Indonesia, was expected to sign a free trade pact with India that will “help India-ASEAN trade touch $100 billion by 2015.”

“ASEAN is central to our dream of an Asian century, where India will play a crucial role. I am sure the meetings there would be fruitful,” Mr. Modi said in a series of tweets ahead of his visit. India is also going to push for the completion of the 3,200-km trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand by 2018, an important component in the government’s plans to “Act East” rather than simply “Look East.”

Mr. Modi will meet Ms. Suu Kyi for the first time during his visit, confirmed foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. The meeting comes even as a decision over whether to amend the constitution to allow Ms. Suu Kyi to contest next year’s elections is expected to be made. After Myanmar, Mr. Modi will continue his travels to Australia to attend the G-20, and then to Fiji for a bilateral visit before he returns on November 20, just ahead of the Parliament session.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 4:29:05 PM |

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