The ambitious undertaking hopes to realign the underlying premises of India-China ties, so that festering irritants are removed, and the two countries can work together to fulfill common global aspirations.
On Friday, Prime Minister Modi and President Xi will meet in the famous villa, which was once Mao Zedong’s retreat. The property — a total of three buildings–at the bank of the East Lake of Wuchang– is set amid pine, bamboo and plum trees. A boat ride by the two principals or a walk among the pines is expected during the two-day event.
A statement released ahead of his departure to Wuhan — the venue of the “informal summit”– Prime Minister Modi underscored that both leaders, during their upcoming dialogue would be looking at the big picture.
Discussions on “a range of issues of bilateral and global importance,” would be shaped by the “visions and priorities for national development, particularly in the context of the current and future international situation,” the dense statement said.
It also highlighted that during the talks, both countries would take a long view of their ties. “We will also review the developments in the India-China relations from a strategic and long-term perspective.”
Diplomatic sources said that the two leaders, in their free-wheeling dialogue, would discuss the border row, and look for underlying principles to resolve it.
“This time the two sides have decided to hold the informal summit between the two leaders. This is because both our countries attach great importance to each other on external strategy and not because of
boundary question that still remains unresolved, and we need talk about it during the informal summit,” Chinese vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said during a media briefing on Tuesday..
Analysts say that China may be gradually shifting its position from “managing” and shelving the border issue, to a fledgling stance of resolving the China-India border dispute. Such a position would align
well with Prime Minister Modi’s approach of seeking a final resolution of the boundary dispute.
Both leaders are also expected to discuss the issue of Tibet, which is central to the “one-China” principle. “The Tibetan issue is a very sensitive and serious topic for President Xi Jinping. China cannot
tolerate any movement towards Tibetan separatism,” says Professor Long Xingchun of China West Normal University in Sichuan, in a conversation with The Hindu.
He acknowledged that “if the issue of Tibetan separatism was cleared, it would be very helpful for resolving the boundary question”.
Professor Long pointed out that a discussion on “India’s aspiration to be recognised as a great power,” anchored in its pursuit of permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) cannot be ruled out during the summit. China, so far, has not unambiguously endorsed India’s case for full membership of the UNSC.
India’s elevation to the UNSC would subsume current irritants, such as China’s objections to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
China’s Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI), which India has not endorsed, and the Indo-Pacific strategy involving the quad–Japan, India, Australia and the United States — could feature in the talks.
Growing protectionism in the United States, including a brewing trade war with China has been one of the drivers of the informal dialogue.
The Doklam military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Sikkim sector has been the trigger for the summit. China’s ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui explained in an article published by the People’s Daily — the flagship of the Communist Party of China (CPC), that the decision of hold the informal summit was taken by President Xi and Prime Minister Modi when they met in September at the Xiamen BRICS conference.
“When President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi met in Xiamen, they agreed to open a new chapter and look ahead to finalising the important consensus of holding an informal meeting,” Mr. Luo observed.