Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to New Delhi on Saturday after wrapping up his two-day informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. PM Modi had arrived in China on Thursday for the unprecedented informal summit with Xi. The prime minister held one-on-one talks with Xi to strengthen the relations between the two countries. This is being seen as an effort by India and China to rebuild trust and improve ties that were hit by the 73-day-long Dokalam standoff last year.
Calling it a memorable trip, the PM said, “The talks with President Xi Jinping focussed on diverse areas of India-China cooperation. We discussed ways to give impetus to our economic ties as well as people-to-people relations.”
Here is what happened during the two-day summit in Wuhan:
PM Modi arrived in China on Thursday and met with Xi Jinping to hold a one-on-one meeting for over two hours on Friday, in what was dubbed as an “informal summit” by the two countries. A major area of discussion was the escalating tensions along the border at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The two leaders agreed to improve communication between the militaries in a bid to prevent any untoward situation in the future.
President Xi Jinping expressed hope that they will reach a “common, new and important understanding that will help take our relationship to the next level”. In a statement, the Indian government said, “Prime Minister Modi and President Xi reviewed developments in India-China relations from the strategic and long-term perspective. They agreed to significantly enhance efforts to build on the convergences through the established mechanisms in order to create the broadest possible platform for the future relationship. They also agreed that both sides have the maturity and wisdom to handle the differences through peaceful discussion within the context of the overall relationship, bearing in mind the importance of respecting each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations.”
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.
Xi called for a 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.
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”.
A delegation-level talk was held where Modi was 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.
Xi Jinping and PM Modi on Saturday met at the East Lake and took a brisk walk while interacting with each other, the two leaders also enjoyed a boat ride over the lake. The two leaders directed their militaries to earnestly implement confidence-building measures mutually agreed upon between the two sides, including the principle of mutual and equal security, and strengthen existing institutional arrangements and information sharing mechanisms to prevent incidents in border regions.
At the end of the trip, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the two leaders underscored the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in all areas of the India-China border region in the larger interest of the overall development of bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, in what is being seen as a big blow to Pakistan’s aspiration, India and China will undertake a joint economic project in Afghanistan. The decision came after deliberations between the two nations on Saturday. As per the understanding, officials of both sides will identify the project in following up discussions and work out modalities. This will be a first such project in the war-torn country where China while trying to expand its influence has tacitly backed Pakistan, which has been accused by Afghanistan and the US of backing the Taliban and its most violent attacks in the country destabilising any attempts to restore peace.
The “informal summit” was a first of its kind undertaken by the two neighbouring governments, and in a breakaway from official protocol Xi arrived in central China to meet and host a foreign head of state for two days. Both India and China identified terrorism as a major problem and condemned it in all its forms and manifestation. The two countries also agreed to enhance their efforts to cooperate on counter-terrorism. However, the Foreign Secretary also said that the talks did not focus on specific modalities of terrorism.
Xi and Modi agreed to jointly contribute in facilitating sustainable solutions for global challenges including climate change, sustainable development and food security.
The Prime Minister invited Xi to India for a similar “informal summit” in 2019, to which the Chinese premier expressed hope that they will be able to meet in similar formats.