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Modi-Xi informal summit: Key takeaways

V Nivedita | Updated on October 15, 2019 Published on October 14, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Fisherman's Cove in Kovalam near Mamallapuram.   -  PTI

PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on an informal summit at Mamallapuram, a coastal town near Chennai, on October 11-12.

The first day of the meet showcased the ancient town of Mamallapuram, which was a port from where trade between the two nations were carried out two thousand years ago.

Read more: PM Modi takes Xi Jinping on a guided tour of Mamallapuram monuments

On the second day, Modi and Xi had a one-on-one meet, followed by delegation talks. In all, the two leaders held six hours of dialogue.

Here are five big takeaways:

Trade

One of the main issues between India and China is trade. During this summit, Modi and Xi reinforced their commitment to improve trade relations. This was one of the key agreements of the Wuhan summit. The leaders agreed to a new set up new mechanisms to achieve this goal.

Also read: India, China agree to set up new mechanism for issues relating to trade and investment

The High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue mechanism will look into achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations. It will also seek to address the trade deficit and issues related to investment. It seeks to build a 'manufacturing partnership' between India and China.

The takeaway: China is one of India's largest trading partners. A Reuters report stated that the bilateral trade between the two nations reached $95.54 billion in 2018, but the trade deficit was at $53 billion in China’s favour. This is the biggest India has with any country, it added.

This assurance from China comes at a time when there is a lot of opposition to India joining the China-backed RCEP deal. This deal seeks to form a free trade zone among the ASEAN members - China, Australia, New Zealand and India.

India - which has a FTA with most of these nations - has a trade deficit with most of these nations, and the fear is that this deal might flood the domestic market with more imports, while exports might not increase at the same manner.

Working together on international issues

Modi and Xi agreed that there must be a rules-based and inclusive international order, the MEA statement said. They agreed that there must be reforms that reflects the new realities of the 21st century.

They also agreed that rules-based multilateral trading systems must be supported and strengthened. The nations also reinforced their commitment to work together for open and inclusive trade arrangements that will benefit all countries. They also made a commitment to address global developmental challenges, including climate change and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

The takeaway: India and China have many similar interests at the World Trade Organisation and at the UN. Both nations have been under stress because of US President Donald Trump's trade war and due to the rising tensions in West Asia. If they can come together and effect meaning change to resolve these issues, then other emerging economies will also stand to benefit.

India has trying to exert its influence on the global stage for a while now. China has blocked India's entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and has been slow to accept reforms in the United Nations. It seems unlikely that China will allow any major reform or change that doesn't serve its national interest, although India must push for it.

People to people contact

To celebrate the 70th year of diplomatic relations between the two nations, the year 2020 will be designated as Year of India-China Cultural and People to People Exchanges, the MEA said. To mark the occasion, many events will be planned, it added.

To celebrate the civilisational ties between the nations, the MEA said that the two leaders have decided to form a 'Sister-state relationship' between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province. There is also a proposal to set up an academy to study these links.

Takeaway: The focus on tourism and contact among the people of both nations will not only boost trade, but it will help in building trust between them. Establishing such confidence-building measures can help integrating the people by removing stereotypes.

Chennai connect

In his address at the delegation-level talks, Modi said that the summit had set the path for future discussions. He said that they discussed bilateral and global matters. "The Wuhan spirit has given our relations new momentum and trust. Today, our Chennai vision will begin a new age in relations between our two countries," Modi said.

Xi said that he was happy with the welcome he received and said that invited Modi for another round of discussion China next year. The two leaders also made a commitment to manage differences  in such a way that they would "not allow differences on any issue to become disputes", the MEA statement said.

The takeaway: The 'Chennai connect' sets the tone for future discussions. Here, the two leaders agreed to set up a new mechanism to have better cooperation in trade and defence. In a statement, the MEA said that the two leaders engaged in an "in-depth exchange of views in a friendly atmosphere."

Related news: Modi, Xi Jinping praise Tamil Nadu Government for arrangements

It also reinforced that this 'informal meet' concept works in the India-China context. It also set the ball rolling for more people to people contact.

Jammu and Kashmir

The discussion, or the lack of it, is the reason for Jammu and Kashmir to figure in this list.

In August, India scrapped Article 370, which gave special status to the state. This irked China, which has several interests in the state (they have invested in PoK, and claim a portion of the state). They lent their support to their "all-weather friend" Pakistan, when the latter raised this in multiple international forums, including the UNSC. However, India had responded to them saying that the matter was an internal one and the move was done to improve the lives of the people of the state, and most nations sided with India on this matter.

This issue happened right before the summit, and many believed that India should raise this matter with China.  But it was not even a part of the discussion.

The takeaway: The takeaway from this is that  India was firm on its viewpoint, and didn't allow another nation to talk about the nation's internal affairs. Would China allow India to raise the protest in Hong Kong? No.

The lack of Kashmir in the talks also shows that both nations are willing to look beyond, at least at the leadership level.

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Published on October 14, 2019
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