Less than a month-and-half after Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar was listed as a global terrorist once Beijing lifted its technical hold, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he has made efforts to initiate peace with Pakistan, but his efforts have been “derailed”.
Modi, who met Xi for a bilateral meeting at the State residence Al-Archa in Bishkek ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit in the Kyrgyz Republic capital, said Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere “free of terrorism”, but at this stage, Delhi has not seen that from Islamabad’s side.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said, “There was a very brief discussion on Pakistan. PM said that we have a consistent position with respect to Pakistan. We discuss all issues through a bilateral mechanism and we look for peaceful settlement through negotiation. We are committed to this process.”
“The Prime Minister recalled that he has made efforts in this regard, and his efforts have been derailed. He informed President Xi Jinping that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere free of terrorism. And at this stage, we did not see this as happening. And therefore, we expect Pakistan to take concrete action on the issues that India has proposed, on the issues that India has flagged,” Gokhale said.
Modi told Xi that Azhar’s listing is evidence that the strategic communication between the two countries at different levels has “improved”.
These comments hold significance since Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is also in Bishkek for the SCO summit, and both were seated in the dining table in the presence of Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other SCO leaders. But, there was no official confirmation of a meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan at the banquet.
“Apnapan lagta hai mujhe aapse milkar (I feel at home when I meet you),” Modi is learnt to have told Xi, as the meeting began.
The Prime Minister, who began the meeting by wishing Xi on his birthday on June 15, said they can “move forward”, as “both of us have got similar term” — this was a reference to the almost overlapping terms of Modi’s second term and Xi’s second term as President.
He said there was a “historic opportunity” to take the Sino-Indian relationship to a new level. Xi said that Beijing is ready to join New Delhi in pushing forward a closer development partnership between the two sides, Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency reported Thursday night.
“Xi urged the two sides to stick to the fundamental judgement that China and India offer to each other chances for development, and do not pose each other threats, and called on the two countries to keep deepening mutual trust, focusing on cooperation, and properly handling their disputes so as to turn the bilateral relationship into a positive element for their respective development,” Xinhua reported.
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The two leaders had a “brief discussion” on the boundary issue as well. Gokhale said the Special Representatives have been asked to expedite discussions to achieve a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question”, but underlined that the “approach should be constructive” and it “must be driven by the larger context in which we see India-China relations, in which the two leaders see the relations in the coming years”.
“He (Xi) also called on the two sides to make good use of such mechanisms as meetings between the two countries’ special representatives on the boundary issue, and enhance trust-building measures so as to preserve stability in border areas,” Xinhua reported.
Describing the meeting as marked by “warm and cordial discussion”, Gokhale said Xi congratulated Modi on his election victory, and “it reflected aspirations and trust people have”.
They agreed that there is a new momentum since the April 2018 Wuhan summit, Gokhale said. In this context, Modi specifically noted that what has improved is the strategic communication at all levels.
And he counted resolution of some of the long pending issues — like opening of the Bank of China in India, and China lifting its hold on Masood Azhar’s listing — as evidence of that.
They said they should move to new areas and raise their expectations from the relationship. They asked both sides to prepare thoroughly for the next informal summit later this year.
There was some discussion on trade, and Modi noted that regulatory procedures have been simplified by Chinese side on non-basmati rice, sugar and agriculture products. “There should be significant uptick”, Gokhale said, talking about trade in these commodities.
They also expected that though initial steps have been taken, in the next few months, they hope to see some “significant breakthrough” on addressing trade issues. “As important representatives of developing nations and emerging market economies, China and India, said Xi, need to come together to safeguard free trade and multilateralism, and protect the legitimate development rights of developing countries,” Xinhua reported, in a reference to the US-China trade war.
According to Xinhua, the Chinese President said the two nations need to constantly broaden the channels for cooperation, conduct cooperation in such areas as investment, industrial capacity and tourism, make a bigger cake of common interests, jointly promote regional inter-connectivity, including the construction of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, in a bid to better boost common development.
They decided to celebrate the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations next year — 70 events will be organised, 35 by each side — to commemorate the event. They have tasked their Foreign Ministers to plan and prepare for the events next year.
“Deepening friendship with China. PM @narendramodi’s first meeting on the sidelines of the SCO Summit is with President Xi Jinping. Both leaders are discussing ways to further strengthen bilateral relations,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.