Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a two-day informal summit from April 27 in Wuhan, to impart firm strategic direction to Beijing-New Delhi ties, amid profound changes in the global system.
The expected re-set in China-India ties after last year’s Doklam standoff comes amid a larger conversation within Asia on the need to realign ties with Beijing in view of the growing protectionism in the United States.
“The leaders will reach a strategic conclusion about the global situation and the development of China and India. They will also set the general course, identify new goals and create a new dynamic for the growth of China India relations,” Chinese foreign minister and state councilor Wang Yi said in his prepared remarks at the end of talks with the External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj on Sunday.
He added: “We will make sure that the informal summit will be complete success and a new milestone in the history of India-China relations.”
Elaborating on the global signficance of the meeting in Central Chinese city of Wuhan, Mr. Wang stressed that the international situation is “undergoing 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.”
An official source told The Hindu that in the backdrop of the Doklam crisis, Prime Minister Modi had expressed the urgency of opening a broader strategic dialogue with China during the Xiamen summit of the BRICS countries in September. “It had become evident that China and India had overlapping interests in South Asia, Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific. There was therefore an urgency to align our world views through a broader across-the-board dialogue,” the source said.
The official said that while a free flowing conversation without a pre-set agenda between the two principals at the Wuhan retreat was expected, Prime Minister Modi, in the past, has expressed particular interest in two broad themes: a final settlement of the India-China boundary, and collaboration between India and China for the fruitful emergence of an “Asian century”.
In her remarks following talks with the Chinese foreign minister, Ms. Swaraj underscored that “as two major countries and large emerging economies, healthy development of India-China relations is important for the emergence of Asian century”. She also highlighted the international importance of the summit, pointing out that Prime Minister Modi and President Xi will “exchange views on bilateral and international matters from an overarching and long-term perspective with the objective of enhancing mutual communication at the level of leaders”.
Some China based analysts who spoke to The Hindu view the upcoming summit as a game-changing event. “The relationship between New Delhi and Beijing has the potential to shape the world for the next 30 years,” says political commentator Einar Tangen. He predicted that the “combination of India and China—40 per cent of the world’s population and the fastest growing emerging economies—would be as significant as the formation of the OPEC in the 1970s”.
Professor Long Xingchun, a South Asia specialist at China West Normal University compared the upcoming visit of Mr. Modi to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s path-breaking journey to China in 1988. He highlighted that just as the Wuhan summit is taking place in the backdrop of last year’s Doklam standoff, the 1988 visit had also taken place soon after the standoff between the two militaries at the Sumdorong Chu valley. “The Rajiv Gandhi visit began a new process of improvement of ties. The Wuhan summit is also expected to give a fresh start in the China-India relationship,” he observed.
A diplomatic source said that the decision to hold an informal summit was driven by the consideration that the two leaders would not have sufficient time with each other to cover a vast canvass, during the scheduled Qingdao summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries in June.