New Delhi: Narendra Modi is going to interact with Chinese president Xi Jinping today, during which the two countries are expected to take stock of bilateral ties, buffeted by a military standoff on the Doklam.
The meeting between Modi and Jinping is scheduled for 10am (IST) and is Modi’s last engagement in the Chinese city of Xiamen before he departs for Myanmar on a two-day visit. It is worthwhile pointing out that Modi has been in Xiamen since Sunday for the 9th meeting of Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) group of emerging economies.
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The Modi-Xi meeting will be closely watched for many reasons.
To begin with, it is all set to give pointers to how future relations will evolve. Majority of experts are of the view that the Doklam standoff—which lasted 73 days—has changed the dynamics of the India-China relationship, accentuating the distrust between Asian giants who share a 3,800km mountainous frontier that remains un-demarcated in most places.
“There will certainly be a recalibration of how we engage and relate to each other,” said C.U. Bhaskar, director of New Delhi-based think tank Society for Policy Studies. “Doklam has set a new normal to the uneasy India-China ties. It is a stand-alone case because it involved a third country, Bhutan,” Bhaskar said.
Point to be noted here is that tensions between India and China rose after Bhutan objected to an attempt by Chinese troops to build a road on the Doklam plateau in June. Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay. India said the action to construct the road changed the status quo and expressed concern that the road will allow China to cut off access to India’s northeastern states.
Not much of a surprise that the military face-off saw China upping the ante with state-controlled media and senior government functionaries accusing India of “trespassing” into Chinese territory and reminding India of the outcome of the 1962 war between the neighbours that ended badly for India.
“China has been clearly upset that India and Bhutan did not attend the Belt and Road conference it organised in May,” Jacob said, referring to a modern-day “Silk Road” that China is trying to build connecting itself by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
“It’s my assessment that China will challenge India’s exclusivity more and more in South Asia and ties will become more and more difficult,” Jacob said. “India will need to engage China a lot more and the Brics Summit is a good occasion to initiate a dedicated backchannel with Beijing given the high potential for disagreements in the future,” he added.