No formalities: Xi, Modi to meet without aides

Formalities and protocol will be set aside as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping sit down for talks in Wuhan on Friday.

According to sources, the leaders will meet with their respective interpreters, but without “note-takers” or accompanying officials. There is no listed agenda, stated outcome or even a joint statement envisaged at the end of the two-day meet.

To gain perspective

“The objective of this informal meeting was not to come out with an agreed set of documents, but to have communication at the highest level and to gain perspective that each has of the other in terms of domestic policy and in terms of foreign policy…and how to remove misconceptions and misunderstandings that might arise,” said a source.

As a result, issues that have caused tensions or “irritants,” such as boundary tensions, the Nuclear Suppliers Group membership issue or India’s opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative, would not take centre stage and the leaders are expected to speak on “broad-based” and “overarching” approaches to resolving them instead.


It is learnt that plans for these talks have been under way for several months, especially after the end of the Doklam stand-off on August 28 last year, when the two leaders met at Xiamen.

According to officials whom The Hindu spoke to, a firm proposal was then made during the Davos summit in January 2018, after which Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Beijing to begin preparations for the summit.

While the government came under some criticism for a letter sent to senior officials ahead of Mr. Gokhale’s visit that advised against attending Tibetan community rallies led by the Dalai Lama at a “sensitive time” for India-China relations, sources said the government’s position on Tibet had been set during the Rajiv Gandhi-Li Peng summit of 1988.

“All governments since then have followed the position that Tibet is an autonomous region of China, and the Tibetan community in India would not carry out political activities,” the source added.

As The Hindu had reported earlier this month, Wuhan was among the venues outside Beijing, considered for the leaders’ informal summit, and the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to Shanghai on April 12 firmed up details of the Prime Minister’s travel.

Need from both sides

When asked about the impetus for the informal summit, which will come weeks ahead of another visit by Prime Minister Modi to China’s Qingdao city to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on June 9-10, sources said there was a “need articulated by both sides” to meet in a more relaxed and less time-bound environment.

The sources also said that international uncertainties and “dramatic developments” on the Korean Peninsula, West and South Asia, and worries of a “new cold war” between Russia and the U.S. have also necessitated a closer understanding between New Delhi and Beijing.

While ruling out a “softening” of the Indian position either on Doklam or in the neighbourhood, sources said it was necessary to show that “India and China can still talk” despite differences.

Addressing the question of India’s response to the Maldivian government for imposing an emergency in February this year, various sources said any idea that India would intervene in the crisis was “a stretch of imagination”, and that it would have contradicted India’s “responsible, rule-based position” to have contemplated any military action on the Indian Ocean island nation.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 9:39:51 AM |

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