Putting behind the Doklam standoff, India and China today agreed to move forward in their ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping telling Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he wants to put the relationship on the “right track”. Days after the prolonged standoff in the Dokalam area of the Sikkim sector was defused, the two leaders held an hour- long meeting which Modi described as “fruitful”. During their meeting here, the two leaders agreed that the two countries should make more efforts, including strengthening cooperation between their security personnel, to ensure that such incidents do not recur. “Met President Xi Jinping. We held fruitful talks on bilateral relations between India and China,” Modi tweeted after meeting Xi.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the approach was “forward-looking” during the “constructive” meeting in which it was reaffirmed that maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas was a pre-requisite for the development of India-China relations. Asked if both the countries have left behind the Dokalam episode, he said, “It was a forward-looking conversation…and not a backward-looking one.” PM Modi and President Xi talked about inter- governmental mechanisms such as joint economic group, security group and strategic group which can help both countries move forward, Jaishankar said. The two leaders also emphasised on the need to make efforts to enhance and strengthen the mutual trust between the two sides, he said, adding that it was felt that “the security and defence personnel must maintain strong contacts and cooperation and ensure that the situation which happened recently does not recur.”
Jaishankar said it was natural between two neighbours or large powers to have differences but they should be handled with mutual respect and efforts should be made to find common ground in addressing them. He said that there was a reaffirmation of the Astana spirit that the two sides will not allow differences to become disputes. There was a very strong affirmation at the leadership level that it is in the interest of both the countries to keep this relationship on an upward trajectory, the foreign secretary said.
In his initial remarks during the meeting, Modi congratulated Xi on hosting a “very successful” BRICS Summit, saying that the conference was a success in making the grouping more relevant in a fast-changing world. Xi told Modi that, “China would like to work with India to uphold the five principles of peaceful coexistence (Panchsheel), advance political mutual trust, mutually beneficial cooperation and move forward the development of bilateral relations along the right track,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Geng, while briefing reporters in Beijing, said that during the meeting, “President Xi stressed that China and India are each others’ opportunities, not threats.” “We hope India can view China’s development in a correct and rational way,” Geng quoted Xi as saying. Asked whether the recent standoff at Dokalam figured in the talks, Geng said, “Xi pointed out that China and India should respect each other, seek common ground and shelve differences to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas.”
The Modi-Xi meeting comes amid diplomatic efforts by the two sides to overcome the bitterness caused by the 73-day face-off between their troops in the Doklam area. The Chinese and the Indian troops were engaged in a standoff since June 16 after the Indian side stopped the construction of a road by the Chinese Army. On August 28, India’s External Affairs Ministry announced that New Delhi and Beijing have decided on “expeditious disengagement” of their border troops in the disputed Dokalam area. Geng, in his remarks said, “As far as I know, Prime Minister Modi agreed that the two sides should work together to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas.”
During the meeting, Xi told Modi that if the bilateral relationship can grow in a sound and steady way it would serve the interests of the two countries and also serve the joint aspirations of the region, according to Geng. “Xi stressed that China and India are each other’s important neighbours and two important markets and emerging countries,” Geng said. The Chinese President said that “in recent years the two sides reached wide consensus on developing bilateral relations including strengthening partnership. The two sides have been moving forward and making headway upholding this principle,” according to Geng.
Geng quoted Xi as telling Modi that, “We need to show to the world that the peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation is the only right choice between the two countries. The two countries should shelve differences and seek common ground and together ensure peace and tranquillity at the borders.” Xi also called for alignment of strategies to expand economic cooperation. “On the economic and social development, the two countries have great potential for cooperation which should see greater synergy in strategy alignment, expand cooperation in infrastructure connectivity as well as international affairs,” the Chinese president said.
“Together we can move the international order in a more equitable and reasonable way,” Xi told Modi, according to Geng.
“China would like to work with BRICS countries to implement the outcomes of the BRICS Summit to usher in a new chapter for the BRICS cooperation,” Xi said. Modi’s meeting with Xi was his last engagement here before he flew to Myanmar for his first bilateral visit.