Analysts laud Modi’s tough talk on incursions

Experts and analysts have praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his tough words at the press conference that followed the bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday. “Whether it was on the border or on visa or water issues, this is the first time an Indian Prime Minister expressed himself so openly, or frankly, and that is a shift,” remarked Ravi Bhoothalingam of the Institute for China Studies.

The joint statement between India and China released on Friday recorded progress on many fronts between the two leaders, including on the Chinese plan for a BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India Myanmar) economic corridor and China’s support for India’s “aspirations of playing a greater role” at the UN Security Council. But even the statement recognises the primacy of the border dispute in relations, concluding that peace on the India-China border areas is an “important guarantor” for the growth of bilateral relations.

The border incursion and stand-off in Ladakh however, cast a shadow over the otherwise successful visit. “I think it spun out of control,” said Mohan Guruswamy of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. “The way the amassing of troops from both sides at Chumar sector reached a crescendo that day clearly cast a shadow on the meeting, even on the major economic breakthrough between them.”

Investment let down

Mr. Xi’s visit came in for some criticism over the lowering of investment figures promised, from $100 billion reportedly estimated by a Chinese consular official to the mere $20 billion announced by the leader, particularly as it compared unflatteringly to the Japanese commitment of $35 billion earlier this month. “Even so, there is a more serious shift for the Chinese from seeing India as a market to seeing it as an investment destination, and $20 billion is a significant figure,” former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said.

Tibet visible

While no official comment was made from either side on the Tibet issue, several Chinese journalists who had flown down for the visit expressed surprise at the protesters being able to reach the venue of the bilateral meeting.

“The fact that a controlled protest was allowed on this visit, in a departure from the past during the visit of Premier Li Keqiang, or the Olympic torch run, was as much a message to the visiting delegation as it was to the Prime Minister’s domestic constituency that has advocated a tough line on China,” surmised analyst Ashok Malik.

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