Asking Beijing to respect and be sensitive to New Delhi’s concerns and aspirations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday red-flagged a range of issues, in particular the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), a major source of terror that hurts India along its borders.
“Our response to terrorism should not be motivated by political considerations,” Modi is learnt to have told Chinese President Xi Jinping Sunday in his first bilateral meeting ahead of the G20 Summit.
While CPEC is an area of immediate concern, New Delhi’s discontent with Beijing has been simmering over the past few months, with China stalling India’s membership in the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and also blocking its bid in the United Nations to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist.
To a specific question if the corridor through PoK, which is also an area from where terrorists strike India, was discussed during Modi’s bilateral meeting with Xi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “This issue was also raised.” It is not the first time that the issue has come up, but the timing is significant given that Modi recently re-asserted that PoK remained a part of Jammu & Kashmir.
Modi also made a hard-hitting intervention on terrorism at the BRICS leaders’ meeting later. Without naming any particular country, he said, “Terrorists in South Asia, or anywhere for that matter, do not own banks or weapons factories. Clearly, someone funds and arms them.” Modi went on to ask BRICS to intensify its efforts not just to fight terror but also to coordinate actions to isolate those who support and sponsor terror.
“To ensure durable ties, and their steady development, it is of paramount importance to respect each others’ aspirations, concerns and strategic interests,” Modi told Xi during talks that likely touched upon all aspects of the two countries’ relationship.
When asked if China’s stalling of India’s NSG membership figured in the discussions, the MEA spokesperson said, “It was a 35-minute meeting. If you read between the lines, China is not unaware of our concerns, strategic interests. This was like a summit-level meeting, meant to provide high-level guidance and direction.”
Xi, on his part, remarked that this was his eighth meeting with Modi. They met last in June. “China is willing to work with India to maintain their hard-won sound relations and further advance their cooperation,” state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Xi as saying during the bilateral meeting. The two should respect and care for each other on issues of major concern, and handle differences in a constructive way, Xi said.
Xi said both sides had seen healthy, stable and speedy development of their relationship, and that as neighbours and developing countries, they should continue high-level exchanges, according to Xinhua. Dialogue should be held at various levels and in various areas, and the two countries should frequently exchange views on major issues of common interest to enhance understanding and trust, the news agency quoted Xi as having said.
Significantly, President Xi’s first meeting of the day was with PM Modi. Describing it as a cordial meeting, the MEA spokesperson said the PM initiated the talks, condemning the terrorist attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. “This is yet another proof of the continuing scourge of terrorism,” he quoted Modi as telling Xi.
Clearly, New Delhi is keen to change the narrative, with negativity ruling the current atmosphere. But for that to happen, it is imperative that China, as a principle, is sensitive to India’s strategic interests and takes action in certain areas that are irritants in the relationship, a senior official said.
“In order to promote positive convergences, we will need to prevent growth of negative perception. For this, the specific actions by both countries will play a major role. India has worked to make progress in a closer developmental partnership with China,” the spokesperson quoted Modi as saying. “In particular, he (the Prime Minister) highlighted that we have succeeded in maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border. The cultural and people-to-people ties have also been increasing.”
Modi also said to make the Asian century a reality, the countries of the continent would have to take responsibility. “Our peoples also have the expectation that we make every possible effort to fulfil the dreams of development, progress and prosperity,” he said.
The PM said he always had a strategic vision for India-China relations. “The partnership is important not only for the two countries but for the entire region and world,” he said.