IN A rare acknowledgement of India’s role in global affairs, Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday said the influence of India and China was increasing steadily in the region and the world, and that there was “vast space” and a “bright future” for bilateral cooperation.
In remarks after two hours of conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the first day of their “informal summit” in Wuhan, Xi expressed hope that they will reach a “common, new and important understanding that will help take our relationship to the next level”.
Officials from both sides indicated that they were working on a new framework, described as a “modus vivendi” or arrangement to bridge the strategic trust deficit.
While a joint document is not being ruled out, Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale is likely to articulate the government’s takeaways after the summit Saturday.
As reported by The Indian Express, the two sides are working on a framework to mend strained ties over the recent years, especially during the Doklam crisis. If finalised, the framework would outline the “principles” of engagement between the two without dwelling on specific issues.
Speaking before the start of delegation-level talks, Xi said, “Our two countries’ influence in the world, and in our region, is steadily on the rise. Looking ahead, we see vast space and a bright future for China-India cooperation.”
Modi outlined the five pillars or elements of India-China cooperation — “thought, communication, cooperation, dream and commitment” — and how these can become the strength of world peace, stability and prosperity.
The Prime Minister underlined that Xi’s vision of a “New Era” and his own vision of “New India” are similar concepts and will benefit the world. Modi also invited Xi to India for an informal summit next year, and the Chinese leader expressed hope that they will be able to meet in similar formats.
The two spoke to each other, across the table and accompanied by senior officials from both sides, with a framed photograph of snow-capped mountains in the backdrop.
“In the past three years and more, you and I have exchanged visits, have met each other a number of times in multilateral occasions. We have jointly guided the growth of India, China relations and have seen that it has maintained good momentum,” Xi said.
Without mentioning the trust deficit, the Chinese President said, “Our two countries have established a closer developmental partnership, our exchanges and cooperation in various fields have made positive progress… China and India have a combined population of over 2.6 billion, with an enormous potential for technology development and domestic market.”
He said the “international situation is at a crucial period of adjustment”, alluding to global events surrounding the summit — from the US-China trade war to peace between the two Koreas.
“China and India are both important countries for global growth. Looking ahead, our two countries need to maintain strong and determined focus on national development, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, work together for our respective national revitalisation and partner with each other to build an Asia in the 21st century that enjoys stability, development and prosperity,” Xi said.
“We also need to make positive contributions for global peace and development… I believe, in the future we will meet in format like this from time to time. I look forward to having in-depth communication with your excellency,” he said.
Xi called for continuous strengthening of friendly relations between the two countries so that “their friendship will continue to flow forward like the Yangtze and Ganges” rivers, Xinhua quoted him as saying. It also said that the informal meeting will open a “new chapter” in bilateral ties.
Earlier, Modi met Xi at the Hubei provincial museum and took a tour before a one-on-one meeting. He told Xi that the “people of India feel really proud that I am the first Prime Minister of India for whom you have come out of the capital twice to receive me”.
Modi said, “You have rightly said that we, as responsible leaders, represent 40 per cent of the world’s population, and this is not just a meeting of two leaders, but I see it from the perspective of a historic and cultural legacy… world is witness to this, and there has been in-depth study on this… that in the last 2,000 years of history, India and China have given momentum or pace to world economy and our two countries contributed 50 per cent of the world economy… rest of the world was restricted to the remaining 50 per cent… so much impact and influence for 1600 years, it’s a big thing… and it had an impact on social, religious, economic, cultural, scientific, in every sector, it had a positive impact.”
He said, “I think the closeness between us, the trust that we have on each other, the time we are spending, these will convert into people-to-people contact… that will be our biggest strength, and that will be the strength for the world’s bright future.”
He then spelt out strength: “S stands for spirituality, T stands for tradition, trade and technology, R is relationship, E is entertainment, our movies, dances, culture, museum, A is for Art, N is for nature, and H is for health” — essentially covering the major spheres of cooperation. Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar later said that G stands for “Games” — meaning sports.
After these statements, Modi and Xi went for a delegation-level talks accompanied by top officials from both sides, including Gokhale and NSA Ajit Doval. Politburo member Yang Jiechi, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice Foreign minister Kong Xuanyou were present on the Chinese side. The two sides then had dinner at the East Lake guest house.
They will be meeting again Saturday, where they will have more one-on-one conversations, including a walk on the lakeside and a boat ride, followed by lunch between the two leaders.