Trade, defence to top agenda at Modi-Xi informal meet on Oct 11-12

4 days ago

NEW DELHI/BEIJING: Trade, defence, security and stronger people ties besides the larger global scenario will feature prominently in conversations between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping when they meet for their second informal summit in the historic setting of Mamallapuram in coastal Tamil Nadu on October 11-12.
India and China waited until the proverbial eleventh hour to announce the much-awaited summit between the two leaders, a reflection of the current troughs in the bilateral relationship. It will be up to Modi and Xi to ensure the progress at Wuhan last year is consolidated when they meet for extended discussions.
There will be no outcome documents but both sides will issue separate statements after the summit. As in Wuhan, there is an expectation that the two leaders will issue another set of ‘strategic guidance’ to their respective teams. Modi will be accompanied by foreign minister S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval, government sources said. Xi will bring with him a high power team of politburo member Yang Jieche and foreign minister Wang Yi, who was made state councillor earlier this year. Xi is expected to travel to Kathmandu after his meeting with Modi.
On defence and security, the two sides would be looking to update and add to confidence building measures (CBMs) to maintain “peace and tranquillity” on the border. The two armies are expected to hold the ‘Hand-in-Hand’ exercise later this year.
A meeting of special representatives (Doval and Yang) for boundary talks may be scheduled as a result of the summit. Sources said terrorism would feature prominently in the conversations, though not Kashmir. “Article 370 is a sovereign decision,” a source said.
Taking forward the third country partnership initiative, sources here said India and China, which had started training Afghan diplomats, would expand the exercise to train other civil servants in Afghanistan. The concept of ‘China-India Plus’ aims to extend the impact of improvement in bilateral relationship to other countries.
With 2020 being celebrated for the 70th anniversary in diplomatic relations, the two countries may set up a high level mechanism to monitor people-to-people exchanges. That may be one of the announcements after the meeting.
Modi is expected to raise the trade deficit between India and China in the discussions. Sources said while there was an improvement in the regulatory framework in China after Wuhan, allowing a few more Indian goods like tobacco and non-basmati rice to enter the market, the volumes were too small to make a dent in the overall trade figures.
India will be looking to redress these issues, as well as seek assurances that signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will not open the Indian market to Chinese dumping. The summit holds significance because the next round of RCEP talks are scheduled for next week.
Despite the prevailing clouds, official efforts on both sides is to paper over the differences. This prompted Chinese vice minister for foreign affairs Luo Zhaohui to deny that the ‘Him-Vijay’ exercise in Arunachal Pradesh had even happened. This is a signal that China would avoid discussion on uncomfortable and controversial issues, at least publicly, during the visit.
“As far as we know, the so-called military exercises is not a fact, it is not true. Secondly, the region you mentioned is sensitive region and we don’t want to hear that reference,” Luo said.
The vice minister said the goal of the summit was to develop “deeper strategic communication that will help bilateral relations and practical cooperation between the two countries”. Improvement in India-China ties will also have “positive implications to regional and global development and stability”, he added.
“That (the informal summit) is driven by the national interest of the two countries and personal relationship between the two leaders,” Luo said.

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