Modi, Xi seek to hasten solution to border row through dialogue

PM Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the SCO summit in Bishkek on Thursday. (PTI)

NEW DELHI: India and China on Thursday directed their special envoys, tasked with solving the boundary dispute, to speed up discussions for a settlement that is acceptable to both sides, following a “new momentum in ties” achieved after the Wuhan summit.

This was one of the key outcomes of the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bishkek on Thursday. Modi also met Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.

Briefing reporters on the Xi-Modi talks, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said it was “very substantive in content” and was held in a “very positive” atmosphere. According to Gokhale, the two leaders said the approach while finding a solution to the boundary dispute should be “constructive” and “driven by the larger context in which both leaders see the India-China relationship”. Xi and Modi also said that the solution to the boundary dispute should be “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable”, he added.

The border dispute dates back to the 1962 India-China war. Several rounds of talks have not yielded results.

The Modi-Xi meeting in Bishkek comes after Beijing withdrew its objections to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed group chief Masood Azhar a terrorist by the United Nations.

At the meeting, both leaders agreed that “there was a new momentum in the bilateral relationship” after their meeting in Wuhan, an informal summit which took place in April 2018, where Modi and Xi attempted to stabilize ties following a 73-day long standoff at Bhutan’s Doklam plateau in 2017.

The Wuhan meet had helped improve strategic communications “at all levels,” Gokhale quoted Modi as saying on Thursday.

“The two leaders agreed that while the outcome of Wuhan summit was very positive, it was now necessary to move the relationship forward to new areas,” he said, adding that PM Modi “specifically conveyed to President Xi that both sides need to raise expectations from the relationship”.

With the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government winning a fresh five-year term, which coincides with Xi’s second term as president, the two leaders felt that there was a “historic opportunity to move forward and to take India-China relations to a new level”.

Modi invited Xi to India for the next informal summit and said that he “looked forward to discussing all issues from a strategic and long-term perspective”.

In his meeting with Putin, the two leaders agreed that India-Russia ties were a pillar of stability, Gokhale said.

Modi also accepted Putin’s invitation to the Eastern Economic Forum meet in Vladivostok in September, which is regarded as the equivalent of the annual Davos Forum.

The two sides decided to collaborate in the energy- and mineral-rich Russian Far East.

“This is an area where we would like to work with Russia. Russia is also an important country in the Pacific region, and this is part of our Act East Policy,” he said.

A new area of focus was oil and gas in the Arctic region.

“We have already begun that engagement,” Gokhale said, adding that a delegation from India’s oil ministry held talks with Russia last month.