New and updated confidence building measures (CBMs) along the border will be one of the major themes of discussion during the two-day second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping starting Friday, sources told The Indian Express.
With the bilateral space coming under a shadow after Delhi’s decision to revoke special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, Modi is also likely to convey to Xi that Beijing has to be “sensitive” to India’s core concerns.
Sources said the CBMs, which were agreed upon in 1993 and 1995, have become outdated with the advent of technology over the last 25 years. “The idea is to maintain peace along the Line of Actual Control. So, there is a need for the two leaders to discuss whether the existing CBMs, which date back more than two decades, need to be updated or supplemented,” sources said.
While the broad contours will be discussed between Modi and Xi, the CBMs may be announced during the Special Representative-level talks or during a meeting between defence officials.
During their meetings on Friday and Saturday in Mahabalipuram, Modi will also explain the reasons and nuances behind the J&K decision, sources said.
“The Prime Minister is likely to use the opportunity to explain to the Chinese President the reasons behind Delhi’s decision on Kashmir. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has already briefed Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, but when you have the No.1 leader in an informal setting, it’s only natural… one wouldn’t lose that opportunity,” sources said.
Although sources maintained that Modi will speak on Kashmir only if it is raised by Xi, it is likely that two leaders will discuss the issue at some point.
Xi is expected to land in Chennai at 2.10 pm Friday and will spend at least seven hours with Modi in Mahabalipuram, about 55 km away, over two days. This is their sixth meeting since the first informal summit in Wuhan in April 2018, and the third since Modi’s re-election in May.
The two sides will also take forward the idea of a joint project in Afghanistan to train the second batch of Afghan diplomats — civil servants and police officers could be covered as well, sources said.
The two leaders will also discuss the issue of terrorism, and Modi is expected to sharpen the focus of India’s position. This is significant because the Financial Action Task Force, under China’s presidency, is slated to meet from October 13 to 18 and take up the issue of Pakistan’s blacklisting. Sources said India will expect China to consider the case “objectively”.
The two sides will exchange notes on the next counter-terrorism exercises between the two countries to be held in December.
On trade, the issues of market access and deficit will be taken up by India, sources said. Although some regulatory issues have been eased, there hasn’t been much improvement in trade figures. In 2018, bilateral trade reached an all-time high of US$95.54 billion — India’s exports were US$ 18.84 billion.
After the first informal summit in Wuhan, India had said that the two leaders had given strategic guidance to their militaries to strengthen communication in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance effectiveness in border affairs.
Since then, the two sides have been able to maintain peace after the Doklam stand-off. But sources said that while the strategic guidance has worked well, more could be done in the form of CBMs.
On Kashmir, India has responded to every statement from China since the J&K decision was announced on August 5. On Wednesday, India took strong exception to a reference to Kashmir in a meeting between Xi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The sense in Delhi is that Beijing has not followed the understanding to be sensitive to each other’s “sensitivities and concerns”. Delhi, for the record, has not commented on the protests in Hong Kong or the crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang province in the last few months.
It’s against this background that the Indian side will try to subtly convey to the Chinese that they need to be mindful of India’s concerns.
Over the next two days, Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will also meet their Chinese counterparts, including Wang Yi who is also the Special Representative for boundary talks.
In Mahabalipuram Friday, Modi will give Xi a guided tour of three renowned monuments: Arjuna’s Penance, Panch Rathas and the Shore Temple around 5 pm. Thereafter, the two leaders will watch a cultural performance for 45 minutes at the temple, which will be followed by a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister.
On Saturday, they will meet at Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa for a 50-minute meeting followed by delegation-level talks before the visit ends with lunch hosted by the Prime Minister.
Sources said the schedule has been structured in such a way that the two leaders will be able to talk to each other in a “free-flowing manner”, and without aides, many times.
“Just like the first informal summit took place in the shadow of Doklam, this is taking place in the shadow of Kashmir. Just like there was ironing-out of differences and an understanding achieved that they will not be allowed to become disputes, the effort is to get Xi to take a more balanced, if not favourable, view on the issue,” sources said.