Playing close attention to details, President Xi left no stone unturned to make Modi feel right at home at the summit last year. Right from a peacock-motif menu card which carried colours of the Indian flag, to having their own version of ‘chai pe charcha’ on a boat at the East Lake, the camaraderie shared by the two leaders was on full display in Wuhan. The talks between the two leaders were held in a direct, free and candid manner.
“The forward-looking dialogue raised the level of strategic communication about the perspective, priorities, and vision that guide their respective policy choices domestically, regionally and globally. It also helped them in forging a common understanding of the future direction of India-China relations built upon mutual respect for each other’s developmental aspirations and prudent management of differences with mutual sensitivity,” the Ministry of External Affairs had said following the informal summit. During the meeting spanning two days, Xi and Modi were seen taking a stroll by the East Lake in Wuhan. No aides were present with the two leaders who actively engaged with each other. The Prime Minister and the President took a boat ride at the lake after the stroll, where they discussed matters jovially over tea.
Xi and Modi were also seen enjoying an instrumental rendition of the 1982 Bollywood song ‘Tu, tu hai wahi dil ne jise apna kaha’ on traditional Chinese instruments during the meet last year. The Wuhan summit was successful in normalising ties following the Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese troops which lasted for about 72 days in 2017. The incident was triggered by the Chinese side trying to undertake construction work in the trijunction area of India, China, and Bhutan border. After several rounds of negotiations, India and China decided to mutually disengage.
While India and China are no strangers to standoffs, the differences between the two sides have been resolved at a faster pace following the one-on-one talks held between the two leaders in Wuhan last year. Most recently, ahead of a massive military exercise planned along the China border by India, soldiers of the Indian and Chinese armies engaged in a face-off near the northern bank of Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh last month which was resolved swiftly after talks between the two sides there.
Another landmark moment in the India-China bilateral relationship following the Wuhan informal summit was the blacklisting of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar in May this year. Lifting its technical hold on the proposal by USA, UK, and France following the gruesome Pulwama terror attack, China paved the way for the blacklisting, which was a major diplomatic victory for India. On February 14, a JeM operative rammed his bomb-laden vehicle into a passing CRPF convoy, leading to the death of about 40 personnel. The attack was widely condemned and led to Pak-based Masood’s blacklisting after India mounted all diplomatic efforts in this regard.
China had been stonewalling Masood’s blacklisting for years. Its fourth technical hold on a proposal to blacklist the UN-proscribed terror group’s leader was largely viewed as support for its “iron brother” Pakistan. However, in a major snub for Islamabad, China lifted its objections, leading to Masood being blacklisted as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council. Preparations to welcome Xi to Tamil Nadu for the second informal summit starting from Friday are in full swing. The two leaders are expected to visit the picturesque Mahabalipuram which is known for the temples and monuments built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries.
While no Memorandum of Understanding or agreements will be signed during the two-day engagement, Xi and Modi are expected to hold one-on-one and delegation-level talks. The meeting between the two will not have a specific agenda, however, the focus of the meeting will be on improving people-to-people contact and on how to maintain peace and tranquility along the India-China border. As per the MEA, the Chennai informal summit will provide an opportunity to the two leaders to continue their discussions on overarching issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening India-China Closer Development Partnership.
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