India-China informal summit to fast-forward bilateral ties of the Asian giants?

By: |
October 3, 2019 7:59 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet later this month in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu from Oct 11-13.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Saturday. (Yan Yan/Xinhua via AP)

Bilateral trade issues and the effects of the US-China trade dispute may draw the attention of leaders of India and China who are expected to meet in an informal setting later this month. The political and economic situation prevailing in the international arena may be discussed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet later this month in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu from Oct 11-13. The dates have not been officially announced yet by the government.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior officer has said that “A few issues that could be discussed are the happenings in the US during the visit of Prime Minister Modi for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). China has traditionally been wary of India having a closer relationship with the US. That feeling has been accentuated by the concepts of Quad first and then the Indo Pacific. Some discussion on the boundary issue may be on the cards.”

Besides exchanging notes on developments in each other’s countries, it is likely the two leaders will talk about the deepening of people to people contacts. It may be recalled that the external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi has met twice and discussed enhancing of people to people ties.

Also, the parade that was conducted on Oct 1 to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China may find a mention in the talks between the two leaders.

The first informal summit between Modi and Jinping in April 2018 brought increased stability in the bilateral relationship between India and China and since then a lot of water has flown under the bridge since the last informal meeting.

The positives Post Wuhan

There is some noticeable stability in the bilateral relationship. According to sources, the strategic communication between the countries improved; and there were no surprises along the line of actual control (LAC). However, the recent face-off between Indian and Chinese forces in the Pangong Tso area was a one-off during this period. China also relented on UN proscribing Masood Azhar, the JeM leader.

There been improvement in the trade relations and on a 2+1 format Afghan diplomats were trained.

Scrapping of Article 370

India’s position is well known globally that the revocation of Articles 35A and 370 are internal matters. Though Jaishankar during his visit to Beijing in August clarified India’s position on the boundary question China reacted in a manner that may not have gone down well with the government.

Raising the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh at the UNGA, by the Chinese ambassador to the UN Wang Yi’s statement has cast a shadow on the bilateral relations.

China’s reaction to the revoking of constitutional articles is in sharp contrast to India’s silence on the events happening in Hong Kong. The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar had in response to a question stated that India does not comment on internal issues of other countries. He added “She also does not expect other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India.”

It is against this background that the second informal summit is expected to take place. Chinese spokesperson Hua Chunying is on record to say that the issue of Article 370 will not be a major point of discussion in the impending summit.

“Whatever the issues that come up for discussion between both the leaders, this summit, like the previous one, is likely to bring in some more stability in the bilateral relations” pointed out the source.

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Informal Vs Formal Summit

This format was questioned by a few analysts when the first summit happened in Wuhan. It has advantages too. The rigid format that the formal interactions follow does not give any leeway for transgressing the agenda. Informal summits being freewheeling ones allow a lot of flexibility in discussing issues that cannot be formally discussed. Good personal chemistry between the leaders also contributes towards better outcomes.

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