In his first meeting with China President Xi Jinping here on Monday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the need to resolve the border dispute and work together to tackle terrorism in the region. He also raised the issues of greater economic cooperation, paring trade deficit and developing industrial corridors in India where China can invest.
Within three hours of arriving in Brazil’s northeastern city of Fortaleza, Modi drove a kilometre from his hotel to Gran Marquise, where Xi is staying, for a meeting that extended from the scheduled 40 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes. Xi too headed to the meeting shortly after his arrival, indicating the importance that the two leaders attached to the relationship.
The meeting, which the government described as “substantive, warm and cordial”, touched on several regional and international issues besides almost all aspects on the bilateral agenda. Modi invoked the civilisational linkages between India and China and their shared heritage to reinforce people-to-people ties. Given the size of the two countries, with a combined population of over 2.5 billion, Xi is learnt to have said during the discussions that “when India and China meet, the whole world watches”.
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Xi invited Modi to participate in the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting on partnership and connectivity that China is hosting in November. APEC, which has 21 member countries including China, Russia, Australia, USA, Korea and Japan, is a grouping that promotes trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.
“This is the first time that India has been invited. It is a significant gesture. We will follow it up now,” said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
The Chinese President also evinced interest in India deepening its cooperation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO was created in 1996 after a treaty on deepening military trust in the border region was signed between China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and Kazakhstan. At present, India is an observer country. “Should the SCO want greater Indian engagement, India stands ready to accept that responsibility too,” Modi is learnt to have told Xi.
Referring to the difficulties he faced while visiting Kailash Mansarovar several years ago, Modi suggested that China open a new route for Indian pilgrims. “If China provides another route, travel for Indian pilgrims will be much easier. The numbers would swell,” Modi is learnt to have told Xi. The Chinese President accepted the suggestion and said Beijing would consider providing an alternate route.
Xi accepted Modi’s invitation to visit India in September. “We are finalising the dates,” Akbaruddin said. Xi also invited Modi to China. Referring to his earlier visits, Modi said he would be glad to go there again.
Xi spoke about Modi’s focus on development as the Gujarat Chief Minister. “The Prime Minister also referred to Xi’s experiences, as reflected through his speeches before he became the President of China,” said an official spokesperson. This enabled the two leaders to exchange their views without any constraints as the bilateral meeting progressed, the spokesperson added.
Modi said that India’s trade deficit with China must reduce through increased Indian exports. Xi stressed the need for a much more balanced trade for trade ties to be sustainable. “Enhanced trade in services, higher Indian exports and increased tourism from China to India, can bring the deficit down,” Xi is learnt to have noted. India suffered a $31 billion trade deficit in 2013 on a $65.47 billion bilateral trade.
The Modi-Xi dialogue is the fourth high-level meeting between the two countries in the last six weeks. China Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India in June as a special envoy of the President. Vice President Hamid Ansari held bilateral discussions with his counterpart Li Yuanchao during a five-day visit in June. Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh visited China earlier this month.