As Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on his first visit to China post the 73-day long Doklam standoff to meet President Xi Jinping, his only objective will be “stabilisation of ties” that have suffered a dent.
Modi will meet Xi on April 27-28 in the city of Wuhan for an ‘informal summit’. This will be the first such visit by the Prime Minister where he has “no firm agenda” and his only objective will be “stabilisation of ties” so that incidents like Doklam can be avoided in the future, diplomatic sources told BusinessLine .
Modi will visit China again to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit to be held in Qingdao on June 9-10. However, the government felt that June will not be an opportune moment to discuss all aspects of bilateral ties, especially at a time when it is fast deteriorating, according to sources.
The idea to hold the ‘informal summit’ was mooted by the government “almost immediately” after it was clear that President Xi was poised for a longer tenure in office after the two-term limit was scrapped last month. The move was a “wake-up call” for India.
According to sources, during the ‘informal summit’ Modi is expected to push two main issues — membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and efforts to list JeM leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist — keeping in mind that the government is heading for elections next year.
China may use this opportunity to coax India into joining its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, India cannot afford to agree to that proposition as it continues to object to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEP), a key project under BRI.
Additionally, as India continues to take significant steps in security dialogues such as the ‘Quadrilateral’ along with the US, Japan and Australia, it remains to be seen how effective it can be in cajoling China to designate Masood Azhar as a terrorist by the UN.
The Wuhan Summit will also delve deep into the subject of how not to threaten the committed objective of “maintaining peace and tranquillity” at the border areas. Both sides may also try and identify a lasting solution over the India-China-Bhutan trijunction area, although that will require sustained efforts by the designated ‘Special Representatives’ or SRs.
It is also unlikely that the Ministry of External Affairs will issue a joint statement post the Wuhan Summit.
This will be Modi’s fourth visit to China after he became the Prime Minster in 2014. His first bilateral visit to that country took place in 2015 followed by a visit to Hangzhou to take part in the G20 summit in 2016 and BRICS summit in Xiamen last year.
His visit this time was made possible by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who has a deep understanding of China and effectively negotiates with them.
“Problems are many so it is better to have a bilateral meeting now than on the sidelines of the SCO Summit. Territorial dispute and the border question will definitely be top of the agenda but in terms of actual results, it is not clear what those will be. China may also attempt to wean India away from the Quadrilateral security dialogue. Enhancing mutual trust is the main aim of this meeting,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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