Eight months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi described relations with China as “Inch towards Miles”, he will press for an “incremental progress” on the border dispute, military relations and trans-border rivers when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping for over four hours in his home-state Shaanxi.
After he lands early morning on Thursday, Modi will meet Xi in Shaanxi guesthouse and then go for a stroll at the Wild Goose Pagoda and later have an early dinner with him. Xi will be flying in to host Modi, in what is being seen as a reciprocal gesture to his Ahmedabad visit last September. Modi had then said that “Inch towards Miles” stands for “India-China towards Millennium of Exceptional Synergy”. Thursday’s meeting with Xi will set the tone for the visit, as he is the topmost leader in the country.
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The PM is scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday.
Modi’s meeting with Xi will mostly focus on strategic issues, since Xi heads the country’s political and military establishment. Top sources told The Indian Express that Modi will be pushing for progress on border dispute, defence relations and trans-border rivers.
On the border issue, Modi is likely to press for the clarification of the Line of Actual Control within a time frame. This issue has been pending since 2003, and the maps of only the Middle sector has been exchanged. The PM will want some agreement with Xi on the exchange of maps in the eastern and western sectors.
“We need to clarify and confirm our positions. This hasn’t made any headway since 2003,” a source, familiar with the process of border talks, said. This issue was discussed during the last round of border talks in March between National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval and State Councillor Yang Jiechi. Sources said the talks have reached a stage where the political leaders will have to take a call on the next step.
The Prime Minister is also likely to make a subtle move for border trade, and ask for opening up more border points where trade can take place — apart from Nathu La. New Delhi has been pressing for border trade at more points, but the Chinese side has been resisting the move.
On the defence ties, sources said Modi will talk about more interactions with the defence establishment — especially at the Director General-level. “We would like to increase the frequency of meetings and also start hotlines between the DGs,” a source said.
And lastly, Modi will press for more information exchange on the trans-border rivers as they provide information for only four to five months. Now, New Delhi wants the information to be given for more months in a year to make an assessment of the water flow.
Even if there is a movement on any of these areas, no announcements are expected on Thursday and are likely to be made after Modi’s talks with Li. Sources said there are at least 12 government-to-government agreements and over 20 agreements between private businesses (B2B pacts) to be signed in Beijing and Shanghai. With economic cooperation high on the agenda, most discussions will be in Beijing and Shanghai — including a possible formation of a high-level economic dialogue.