It’s now or never

NS Vageesh | Updated on January 23, 2018

Modi and Xi

Modi should take up the border issue with China

Prime Minister Modi makes what is arguably his most important foreign trip when he visits China next week. If he really means change, we will know soon enough in a simple way — how the two sides tackle the 800-pound gorilla in the room, India’s unsolved border problem with China.

For a couple of decades now, the Indian establishment has pussyfooted around this issue. Most official references to the subject have been couched in banalities accompanied by sage comments from the two countries’ leaders about the “problem being left over from history” and how “it is not possible to solve this overnight”. Nobody expects miracles overnight, least of all a border settlement when the border is still largely undefined. But, to give the same explanation decade after decade highlights a certain insincerity and an unwillingness to settle the issue in a time-bound and transparent manner. One wonders why Parliament doesn’t demand greater accountability on the subject?

A deal has to be struck with some give and take on both sides. For India, the party which lost territory, that comes with the added burden of selling this reality to our population. This seemed undoable during the UPA regime simply because of the fractured nature of their mandate and the coalition pressures, which would have escalated on so emotive an issue.

A deal may now be doable since both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi have a reputation for being ‘strong men’. Neither of them will likely be accused of a sell-out in the event of a settlement, a fear that may have hung over the earlier regimes and therefore hampered bold solutions. Solve the border problem and it will unlock the huge potential for better relations between the two most populous countries and neighbours.

Associate Editor

Published on May 08, 2015

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