Modi, Xi to balance ties on the Ganga

Xi Jinping with Narendra Modi at Sabarmati in 2014.

Xi Jinping with Narendra Modi at Sabarmati in 2014.  

The details of the second informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency, are yet to be finalised.

A boat ride by the two leaders on the Ganga is expected, echoing their half-an-hour sail on the East Lake in Wuhan last April when they met at their first informal summit.

“At the bilateral meeting in Bishkek on the sidelines of the on Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, President Xi stressed that the two countries must celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties befittingly after congratulating Mr. Modi once again on his victory in India’s general election,” a Chinese official said. “India and China are ancient civilisational states, which will be the pillars of the multi-polar world. This shapes the context of the meeting between the two leaders,” the official said.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is expected to visit Beijing next month for the second meeting of the India-China high-level people-to-people exchanges mechanism with State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. While the focus of this mechanism is on people-to-people exchanges and culture, all topics of ties, including the detailing of the Varanasi summit, will be covered, except for trade and commerce.

Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal will also visit Beijing next month to address the nearly $60-billion trade deficit between the two countries. India’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is also expected to be discussed then.

Trade worries

Trade deficit is now one of the top items on the agenda. Mr. Modi is understood to have highlighted the need for reducing the trade gap at his meeting with Mr. Xi in Bishkek. Faced with an escalating trade war with the U.S., Mr. Xi affirmed that the issue would be addressed.

Nevertheless, India’s Ambassador to China Vikram Misri said at an Asia Society event in Hong Kong last week that the “trade imbalance is not economically sustainable in the long run”. “It is in our mutual interest to find workable solutions before the markets react in unpredictable ways and the issue becomes politically sensitive,” he said.

The boundary issue continues to impart background friction to the ties. Described as a “courtesy meeting” on the Twitter handle of the Embassy of India in Beijing, Mr. Misri on Friday met Hong Liang, the new Director-General for Boundary and Oceanic Affairs in the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

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