Modi in China: Xi's new era, my New India dream to benefit world; updates

Topics Xi Jinping

Modi-Xi summit begins: Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds informal talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China's Wuhan City. Photo: @ANI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday held "extensive and fruitful" meetings here on the first day of an unprecedented two-day informal summit to "solidify" the India-China relationship and exchanged views on how the two countries can work together for the benefit of their people and the world. The 'heart-to-heart' summit in Wuhan - the favourite holiday spot of revolutionary Chinese leader Mao Zedong - is being seen as an effort by India and China to rebuild trust and improve ties that were hit by the 73-day-long Dokalam standoff last year.

Modi who arrived in the central Chinese city early today for the summit began talks soon after Xi received him with a warm shake hand and hosted a grand welcoming ceremony for him at the Hubei Provincial Museum here. He was welcomed with a classical Chinese dance opera performance after which Xi took him around some of the most historic art collections and cultural relics of China's ancient civilisation. The museum walk scheduled for 20 minutes lasted over 40 minutes after which they began one-on-one talks.

"Delighted to meet President Xi Jinping in Wuhan. Our talks were extensive and fruitful. We deliberated on stronger India-China relations as well as other global issues," Modi tweeted at the end of first day of talks. He also thanked President Xi for the "wonderful gesture of personally accompanying me in the Hubei Provincial Museum." Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the two leaders "exchanged views on solidifying our bilateral relationship."

Tomorrow, the two leaders will resume their one-on-one talks. They will begin their day with a walk around the East Lake and then go for a ride in a double decker boat and end their first-ever informal summit with a one-on-one lunch.

Here are the top 10 developments around the two-day Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit in China that starts today:

1. Modi's gift to Xi Jinping:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted to President Xi Jinping the paintings of a famous Chinese artist who taught in Visva Bharati University in West Bengal. Xu was known for his Chinese ink paintings of horses and birds. He was one of the first Chinese artists to articulate the need for artistic expressions that reflected a modern China at the beginning of the 20th century. The paintings depicted a horse and sparrows on grass.

2) Congress slams Modi, asks will he call out China on Doklam: With the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit underway, the Congress on Friday asked if the prime minister was going to confront China over the Doklam issue during his visit. In a series of tweets, Congress communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala attacked the Modi government and accused it of being incapable of sending a strong message to China. "As Modi ji 'hugs' his friend, President Xi Jinping today in Wuhan, China, will he remember his innate duty to protect India's strategic interests and question China on occupation of Dokalam impacting India's national security?" said Surjewala. 

Congress said that India was facing an "increasingly aggressive China", which was intruding into the 'Chicken's Neck' -- Siliguri Corridor -- by building a new road through south of Doklam. The party asked why the Modi government was without of clue and incapable of sending "a strong message to China". Surjewala referred to visits of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to China for bilateral meetings with their counterparts earlier this month and asked if Modi would accept that they had "abdicated their duty" by not raising the Doklam issue. 

"Does the Prime Minister accept the failure of his Cabinet Ministers (Defence and EAM) to confront China on creation of 'full-fledged Chinese Military Complex' in Doklam right up to 10m from Indian Army post, during their visit on April 20-24 as an abdication of their duty to the Nation?" Surjewala asked.

5) A boat ride without aides for Modi and Xi tomorrow: Modi and Xi will have an opportunity on Saturday to spend time without their aides, with the Chinese President taking the Indian Prime Minister for a lakeside walk and a boat ride on the picturesque East Lake. This will be followed by a private lunch hosted by the Chinese President.  

No joint statement on Modi-Xi talks: No joint statement or communique will be issued after the Modi-Xi Jinping summit concludes. Sources told news agencies that the informal talks will be broad-based and overarching and no specific issues will be discussed. The idea is to open a strategic communication channel at the highest level. 

President Xi and I will exchange views on a range of issues of bilateral and global importance. We will discuss our respective visions and priorities for national development, particularly in the context of current and future international situation.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 26, 2018

We will also review the developments in India-China relations from a strategic and long-term perspective.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 26, 2018

6) Why an informal meeting instead of an actual summit? Both New Delhi and Beijing have stressed that this is an informal meeting, rather than a summit, as a way, hopefully, to get more done. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, "It can provide a comfortable atmosphere for the two countries' leaders to have full and deep exchanges on important issues of mutual concern."   

Chinese state television, news agency Reuters reported, had said in its commentary that often, more gets done at informal meetings, when people can speak their minds. By way of an example, it pointed to the success of informal talks between Xi and then-US President Barack Obama in 2013 in California. 

Read the Business Standard editorial comment on the Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit: No longer a counterweight: What lies behind the India-China 'reset'?

7) Modi, Xi look to end decades of distrust amid significant differences: Officials have told news agencies that the Modi-Xi Jinping summit is aimed at ending decades of distrust between the two Asian giants, which has deepened as China, with an economy five times bigger than India's, asserts itself in the region. 

Further, despite the optimism about the summit in certain quarters, India and China's differences are significant. Apart from disputes over stretches of a 3,500 km (2,200 miles) border, which came to a head during last year's Doklam standoff, the Asian giants are bumping up against each other in the Indian Ocean and don't see eye to eye over China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. 

In fact, as recently as on Tuesday, New Delhi signalled its opposition to the BRI because one of its branches, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), runs through Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, which India claims.  

On the other side, Biejing has been concerned over US efforts to draw India into a maritime "quad" of democracies, including Japan and Australia, in a part of the world they have begun calling the "Indo-Pacific" instead of the "Asia-Pacific". 

Further, China's opposition to India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its application at the United Nations to declare Pakistan-based terrorist group chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist are some of the irritants that have hampered Sino-Indian ties in the recent past.    

8) Hopes of a big India-China reset could be misplaced: Hopes of a big India-China reset at the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit are misplaced, Jabin T Jacob, a senior China analyst based in New Delhi, wrote for Business Standard. Instead, Jacob argued, the India-China 'reset' as envisaged by the Modi government has the "very strong domestic context of several major state-level elections later this year and the general elections next year". Further, Jacob wrote that the Modi government had two major expectations from the summit -- fewer border transgressions and better economic ties. However, he stressed that both these hopes, at best, lay on shaky grounds. 

Read Business Standard special on the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit, where senior China analyst Jabin T Jacob argues that hopes of a big reset are misplaced 

Concerning India-China tensions at the Line of Actual Control, Jacob argued that while the Modi-Xi summit will be spun on both sides as being successful, it is "hardly likely that transgressions will stop or that the next big one is not around the corner". 

A 'really good' time to talk: A section of experts has exuded confidence that the Modi-Xi summit will strengthen bilateral relations.   

Former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia expressed his optimism on Prime Minister Modi's visit to China. Bhatia told news agencies, "Both the countries have many differences but this will change for sure. Questions like Doklam and other border questions are complex and old questions but everything will be sorted out by sitting together." 

Pankaj Jha, an international relations expert, said that it seems that Modi wants to take some political risk through this summit. Jha told news agencies "In the past 2-3 years, nothing constructive has come out of the previous talks between the leaders. With respect to this summit in Wuhan, Prime Minister Modi wants to take some political risk, either regarding the border or the trade issue." He further said that the Prime Minister may also raise the Tibet issue to know the Chinese President's views on the same. 

Anil Wadhwa, ex-ambassador to China, said that the summit is expected to bring out some positive results. "The timing of the summit is really good. Discussion will be held on all the bilateral issues," Wadhwa said. When asked about the allegation that India is frightened of China with respect to the Doklam issue, he said, "It is not right to say that. Prime Minister Modi had discussed this issue with Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit. Both the sides have maturely diffused the situation." 

9) PLA says ready to use Modi-Xi consensus to improve ties with Indian Army: Ahead of the Modi-Xi talks, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday struck a positive note about Sino-Indian ties and the Wuhan summit. Addressing the media in Beijing, PLA's Senior Colonel Wu Qian said that despite problems, the two militaries can improve their relations under the guidelines set by the two leaders. "Although the relations between the two militaries still face some difficulties and obstacles, we are willing to use the important consensus of the leaders of the two countries as guidelines to deepen our understanding, increase mutual trust, make proper differences, and continuously accumulate the positive energy of the healthy and stable development of the relations between the two militaries," Wu said.   

10) Modi-Xi meeting at Mao Zedong's favourite holiday spot: The East Lake in Wuhan city, where Modi and Xi will spend most of their time, was a favourite holiday spot for Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China. The picturesque garden adjacent to the mighty Yangtze river is also where Mao used to enjoy swimming, his favourite pastime. The place also has Mao's iconic holiday villa, which is now a memorial where Xi is expected to take Modi around.

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