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Differences on normalizing ties continue as Modi and Xi met in South Africa

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug25’23) – Despite the absence of a schedule, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Xi Jinping of China did meet for an “informal conversation” Aug 23 on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. Modi told Xi that maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas and respecting the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are “essential” for normalising bilateral relations, while China said something else, according to media reports Aug 25.

Modi told Xi during the conversation that maintaining peace and tranquillity in border areas and respecting the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are “essential” for normalising bilateral relations, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra has told a media briefing in Johannesburg on Aug 24.

Xi has reiterated China’s oft-repeated position, long rejected by India, that the border situation need not be an obstacle to normalizing trade and other relations between the two sides.

India has said there was pending Chinese request for a bilateral meeting during the summit, responding to the Chinese foreign ministry’s readout on the meeting, saying the conversation was held at the Indian side’s request, reported the hindustantimes.com Aug 25

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sources clarified that China requested for a formal talk with PM Modi. However, their meeting was informal, reported indiatoday.in Aug 25.

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In keeping with Xi’s position, the Chinese readout has skirted any mention of efforts to resolve the military standoff on the LAC through disengagement of troops and de-escalation, and only quoted Xi as saying that the “two sides should bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and handle properly the border issue so as to jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border region”.

The Chinese readout described the conversation between the two leaders as “candid and in-depth”.

It said, “On Aug 23, President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on current China-India relations and other questions of shared interest on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit.”

It said Xi “stressed that improving China-India relations serves common interests of the two countries and peoples, and is also conducive to peace, stability and development of the world and the region.”

Also, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi said in the context of the Modi-Xi meeting, “The two sides should bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and handle properly the border issue so as to jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border region.”

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Kwatra, on the other hand, has said, in keeping with India’s position, “Prime minister underlined that the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and observing and respecting the LAC are essential for the normalisation of the India-China relationship.”

He has also said the two leaders agreed to “direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation”.

Kwatra had also said that during the conversation, Modi highlighted India’s concerns on the “unresolved issues” along the LAC in the western sector.

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This was their first public interaction since a short encounter during last year’s G20 Summit in Bali. Modi and Xi had met briefly at a dinner hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Nov 16, 2022.

At that time, India characterised the interaction as a mere exchange of courtesies.

On that meeting, China’s foreign ministry contended in July that Modi and Xi “reached an important consensus on stabilising China-India relations” during the Bali interaction, to which India’s external affairs ministry responded by saying the leaders had discussed the need to stabilise bilateral ties, the hindustantimes.com report noted.

Following a brutal clash at Galwan Valley that killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops, the two sides have deployed nearly 60,000 troops each in Ladakh sector. Despite several rounds of diplomatic and military talks, they are yet to disengage frontline troops at frictions points such as Depsang and Demchok, the report said.

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