Beijing rules out Modi-Xi meeting at G20 summit, says atmosphere not right

G-20 summit, and what would be his first encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping amid the ongoing border stand-off between the two countries, which has led to a chill in bilateral ties.

Written by Shubhajit Roy , Apurva | Tel Aviv/beijing | Updated: July 7, 2017 3:58 am
sikkim, china, india, pm modi, xi jinping, chinese president, g20, india china bilateral talks, g20 summit hamburg, indian express China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Doklam area near the Bhutan trijunction for the last 20 days after a Chinese Army construction party arrived in the area to build a road. (File Photo)

From the warmth that greeted him in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed Thursday to Hamburg for the

G-20 summit, and what would be his first encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping amid the ongoing border stand-off between the two countries, which has led to a chill in bilateral ties.

China has already set the tone, with a senior government official saying Thursday that “the atmosphere is not right for a bilateral meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay, who is travelling with the Prime Minister in Israel, made it clear that there was no official meeting with Xi slotted on Modi’s Hamburg schedule.

“As mentioned earlier, the PM is visiting Hamburg from July 6 to 8 for the G-20 summit. His bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit are with Argentina President Mauricio Macri, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Italy, Japan PM Shinzo Abe, Mexico PM Enrique Pena Nieto, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, UK PM Theresa May and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. There is no change in the Prime Minister’s schedule,” said Baglay.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said, “As for the arrangement of the bilateral meeting between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi, I have to point out that recently Indian troops trespassed into China and obstructed normal activities of Chinese troops in Doklam region. This endangers China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and has damaged the political foundations of bilateral relations between China and India.”

While China’s public refusal to even acknowledge the possibility of a meeting in Hamburg was seen by New Delhi as a further “hardening” of their position, sources said the two sides have been in touch diplomatically.

Modi, who left Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon after a three-day visit to Israel, will be attending the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) leaders’ meet on Friday, where he and Xi are expected to cross paths.

Indian officials said that while no structured bilateral meeting is scheduled so far between the two leaders, there would be “plenty of opportunity” to interact.

The two leaders had last met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Astana on June 9, and struck a positive note. However, much has changed since then due to the stand-off at the tri-junction border between India, China and Bhutan.

Over the last 48 hours in Israel, sources said, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar have been in constant touch with Delhi’s East Asia division over the standoff.

Between meetings with Israeli leaders and officials, the two have briefed Modi on key developments — one such briefing took place on Air India One, on the way to Tel Aviv, sources told The Indian Express.

Indian sources also said that not much premium is being attached to a possible meeting between Modi and Xi since the Chinese side has been unmoved in the past, despite intervention at the highest level.

An official recalled that when Modi had requested Xi to reconsider Beijing’s position on India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in Tashkent last June, the Chinese leader had not budged. He also recalled that when the two leaders met in Gujarat, on the banks of the Sabarmati, in September 2014, Modi had raised the issue of Chinese incursions, but Xi had been unmoved.

Interestingly, their last meeting in Astana was aimed at defusing the tension over Dalai Lama visiting Arunachal Pradesh in April and India boycotting the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing in May. That 40-minute session in June was described as “very positive and cordial” by Jaishankar.

The earlier two meetings between Modi and Xi — in Goa in October and in Tashkent in June last year — when the leaders went into specifics did not go well. While Tashkent was a disappointment since Xi did not yield to Modi’s request for NSG membership, Goa witnessed no softening of position on Masood Azhar’s terror listing at the UN.

China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Doklam area near the Bhutan trijunction for the last 20 days after a Chinese Army construction party arrived in the area to build a road.

Over the last week, there has been continuous ratcheting of rhetoric by the Chinese side, with more than 10 statements on the border stand-off. India had responded by saying that it was “deeply concerned at the recent Chinese actions and has conveyed to the Chinese government that such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India”.

On Thursday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson accused India of militarising the border in the Sikkim sector. “I do not understand the basis of this so-called ‘serious security risks’. China is within its own territory, and is the legitimate act of a sovereign state. Over the past decades, India has been building a great number of facilities and deploying a large number of forces in the Sikkim sector. In some areas, they have been building military facilities, including fortifications,” said the spokesperson.

On Wednesday, in a YouTube video uploaded by the Chinese Embassy in India, Li Ya, political counsellor, said India must pull back all forces unconditionally and immediately for any meaningful dialogue between China and India. “As to Indian security concerns, India crossed a delimited boundary into another country’s territory in the name of security concerns. No matter what kind of activities it conducts there… (it) will not be acceptable to any sovereign state,” he said in the video.

Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. China and Bhutan are engaged in talks over the resolution of the area. Bhutan, however, has no diplomatic ties with China and is supported militarily and diplomatically by India.

Meanwhile, after virtually calling for war in an editorial comment recently, state-run Chinese daily Global Times in an article titled, ‘China can rethink stance on Sikkim, Bhutan’, indicated that Beijing could consider fomenting “anti-India movements” in Sikkim and Bhutan.

“…If Beijing adjusts its stance on India-sensitive issues, it could be a powerful card to deal with New Delhi. With certain conditions, Bhutan and Sikkim will see strong anti-India movements, which will negatively affect India’s already turbulent northeast area and rewrite southern Himalayan geopolitics,” stated the article published Thursday.

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  1. G
    gurdeep jolly
    Jul 9, 2017 at 1:43 am
    ONE day India should show China that India is not worst than Vietnam. China is a shameless country and this is reason that peace loving countries are afraid of it. Now time for all asian countries to stand together agant chinese fasist theory.
    Reply
    1. R
      Ram
      Jul 8, 2017 at 7:39 am
      Stupid IE guys the meeting between Xi and Modi already done! Stop gloating, otherwise pappu will take your news seriously and mock Modi fort not meeting Xi!
      Reply
      1. M
        Mohan
        Jul 7, 2017 at 6:26 pm
        It looks that the Chinese Prime Minister is in danger of loosing his position. hence to stick to power by hook or crook, he playing all these dirty tricks.
        Reply
        1. J
          Jinita
          Jul 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm
          From Bhutan News Network : Despite Bhutan’s effort, Indian barred Bhutan from entering into diplomatic relations with the northern neighbour. India is also alleged to play role in delaying the final demarcation of border between Bhutan and China. Former Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley who made decent effort to build relations with China was ousted from power and political landscape.
          Reply
          1. J
            Jinita
            Jul 7, 2017 at 1:25 pm
            Bhutan is not a colony.
            Reply
          2. V
            Vincent Chin
            Jul 7, 2017 at 11:13 am
            This is outrageous! What do you do when your neighbour steps into your house and stop you from installing your TV because he says it will be disturbing his sleep? Isn’t it the most ridiculous thing and a clear infringement of your rights? Would you not be angry and ask him to get out? Or would you allow a standoff to occur in your living room, and wait patiently for 30 days for him to get out of your house? As usual and true to form, the Indians had lied to the world that the Chinese has transgressed into Sikkim. A few days later, after the Chinese threatened to produce concrete photographic evidence, the disgraceful Indians quickly backtracked and admitted to everyone that they have lied earlier. They are now changing tact and are trying to mislead everyone by creating innuendo and insinuation of security threats from China to justify their illegal acts. To be clear, Doklam is not even an Indian disputed territory. At worse, it is a matter to be resolved between China and Bhutan. What
            Reply
            1. V
              Vincent Chin
              Jul 7, 2017 at 11:17 am
              ...What right has India got to interfere and coerce the talks between its 2 sovereign neighbours? And in doing so, runs the risks of jeopardising or sabotaging a peaceful and expeditious resolution? India is therefore behaving like a rouge nation and a terrorist state who is trying to create animosity between China and Bhutan, as well as instability in the region. The world has to see through its deceitful and conniving ways.
              Reply
              1. G
                gurdeep jolly
                Jul 9, 2017 at 1:49 am
                CHINA SHOULD REMEMBER WW II.WAR WITH VIETNAM AND AGRESSION AGAINST RUSSIA
              2. A
                amar singh
                Jul 7, 2017 at 12:32 pm
                Bhutan has special relationship with India its defence is India's commitment. China is bullying a small country like Bhutan. China is not a land or sea starved country but led by greedy third rate dynastic leadership with an outdated COMMUNIST model of governance who are insecure in their own country,when India other civilized countries stop entry of their substandard products into their countries then Chinese will fall in line.
                Reply
                1. V
                  Vincent Chin
                  Jul 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm
                  Funny that you talk about India being a civilised and democratic country. Women are routinely b ed as witches and lynched to death in large parts of the country. There are also high rates of domestic violence. India also has a shambolic record when it comes to religious violence. It ranks fourth worst in the world for religious intolerance, according to a recent Pew Research Centre analysis. It is therefore quite interesting to see they continue to take such false pride in their fake democracy and freedom. Vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people for transporting cattle. Muslim men have been lynched by Hindu mobs, mostly in BJP-ruled states, for allegedly storing beef and, in one case, for helping a mixed-faith couple elope. Last month, a 15-year-old Muslim boy, returning home from Eid shopping with his three brothers, was killed in a brutal assault by a mob of about 20 men on a train in the north Indian state of Haryana.
                2. V
                  Vara Prasad
                  Jul 7, 2017 at 2:34 pm
                  No issues bro, Install TV .
                  Reply
                3. M
                  Murthy
                  Jul 7, 2017 at 9:53 am
                  In 1959, after sending troops into Lhasa, China rejected the long accepted McMahon Indo-Tibetan Border, because it said, it was "imposed" by "Imperialists". Now, with this border, the same "Imperial British" are fine, its is "A, Okay" ?? China is still the old MIDDLE KINGDOM that expands in ALL directions. Grab, grab, grab, as much as you can... BUT, India should, as soon as the Chinese Empire weakens, work to make TIBET independent again. India and the West should withdraw recognition for China's Military Occupation of TIBET and XINJIANG. No Empire lasts more than two hundred years at the most. Indians and Tibetan, and Bhutanese, must develop LONG memories. We will rectify China's Aggression in the long term.
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    Ramesh Nittoor
                    Jul 7, 2017 at 9:52 am
                    damaged the political foundations of bilateral relations --- What kind of fallout it will have in BRICS, and Indo-Russian relationship remains to be seen. The Russian veto in favor of N Korea ICBM test was a coordinated response with China. Whether the multilateral groupings can contain the strains caused by conflicting interests is now open to question. China perhaps computes that splitting India-Russia relationship is in their interest. It may not work that way. Probably, Russian memories of of Chinese let down which caused the downfall of Soviets is still fresh and deep in their minds while India has been always steadfast. Quality of relationship may matter more for Russian, particularly to the cons uency which prioritizes European affiliation. This Indo-European pull is likely to insure Sino-Russian relationship shall remain a transactional one, with no fallout on Indo-Russian relationship.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Ramesh Nittoor
                      Jul 7, 2017 at 10:21 am
                      Not acting against India militarily, despite intense cacophony of belligerence emanating from their media, may be designed to project the Core leader as a tall persona with a large heart. If that is the case, the remark about atmosphere being not right, has to be interpreted as Core leader not giving audience to hear Indian grievance, and the set precondition still holds. To find a response that creates a level playing field, before talks are held with the Core leader of China is not going to be easy. India silence to the squeaking Panda makes sense until China opts for a military response. Then, the ground realities override any posturing, and it was there Nehru lost his marbles. The defeat had actually come earlier, in 1955 at Bandung conference, but that is another story. India response has to be lock in step with her capabilities. It is this real-politics in which Chinese leaders are adept, hence earn respect everywhere.
                      Reply
                    2. J
                      Jinita
                      Jul 7, 2017 at 8:53 am
                      Agree The comment From Lalitha. Lalitha ,you are my hero.
                      Reply
                      1. M
                        Murthy
                        Jul 7, 2017 at 9:57 am
                        Jinita, Do not make it sound as though India wants war, but China wants Peace. It is your soldiers who are carrying out "shooting drills" in front of the Bhutanese Army to frighten them. Tell your colleagues in the Ministry that the ordinary people in all the Himalayan countries, from Nepal to Burma, know what China is doing in the Tri-Junction. Indian troops are not armed, but your PLA is keeping armed guards shooting at target range. Do you have a "Lalitha" in your Media ? I doubt if there is freedom for you Chinese to say what you want. In India we are free to voice our opinions, against any Minister, even Prime Minister. Scary cats, the lot of you, rightly so.
                        Reply
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