While reaffirming the “Wuhan spirit” between India and China, Modi emphasised that India-Pakistan issues will remain a bilateral matter and said he had tried to pursue better relations but the process had been derailed. It was a significant message, conveyed to Pakistan’s closest strategic ally.
At the first India-China bilateral meeting on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Modi responded to Xi’s suggestion of resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue by firmly stating that it was a bilateral matter and making it clear that Pakistan has not done enough to restart talks.
Foreign ministry officials stressed there is no bilateral meeting planned between Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Briefing journalists, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale quoted Modi as saying India has a “consistent position”.
“We discuss all issues through a bilateral mechanism, look for peaceful settlement through negotiations,” Modi told Xi, and added that he had personally made “efforts in this regard but they have been derailed”.
The meeting came after China recently allowed the sanctioning of Pakistan-based terror mastermind Masood Azhar after having blocked the move for years at the UN Security Council. Modi seems to have underlined verifiable action against anti-India groups as the bottom line for any fresh dialogue between India and Pakistan.
That apart, the Modi-Xi meeting was described as “warm and cordial” by the foreign secretary. He said Xi accepted Modi’s invitation to come to India later this year for the second edition of the informal “Wuhan-type” summit. Reports have said it could be in October in Varanasi, though Gokhale clarified that “a date and venue is yet to be set”.
The meeting was scheduled to run for 20 minutes, but Gokhale said it went well over time. “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,” PMO tweeted.
Deepening friendship with China. PM @narendramodi’s first meeting on the sidelines of the SCO Summit is with Pres… https://t.co/wVjmZDofCZ
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) 1560424179000
But in a sign that the next informal summit might be more outcome-oriented than the last, Modi and Xi asked the special representatives to “expedite” their discussions on a settlement for a “fair, reasonable, mutually acceptable resolution to the boundary question”.
The Indian side is led by NSA Ajit Doval and China by foreign minister and state councillor Wang Yi. Both leaders called for “intensive and long-term” preparations for the summit. Reviewing the relationship, Modi and Xi said there had been an improvement in “strategic communication” between the two sides, which enabled two important developments -the “opening of Bank of China in India as well as the resolution of the issue of Masood Azhar in the UNSC’s 1267 Committee”, said the foreign secretary.
Gokhale said Modi had told Xi there should be greater “expectations” from the relationship. PM asked Xi to tackle the trade deficit. Some simplification of regulatory procedures in China was appreciated by the Indian side. The PM said he hoped Indian exports could now increase to China.
Next year will see the 70th anniversary of bilateral relationship between India and China. Modi proposed there should be 70 events divided between the two countries to mark the event. The high-level mechanism of the two foreign ministers has been tasked to work on this. Gokhale said this was only the first of the bilateral meetings between Xi and Modi. They will meet in Osaka for the G-20 summit at the end of this month, the Brics and East Asia summits and then the informal summit in India.