Little seen changing in Sino-India relations after PM Modi’s visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attend a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)

(, May16, 2015) – India and China signed on May 15 what was stated to be a record $10 billion agreement on education, railways, mining, and scientific research during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing May 14-16 state visit but the difference between the two sides on the border and Tibet issue was too stark to remain hidden from the high profile coming together of the two Asian giants.

Amid exchange of unprecedented bonhomie and pleasantries, with President Xi Jinping going out of his way to welcome Mr Modi in his home city of Xi’an, China’s national television broadcaster, the China Central Television (CCTV), very prominently displayed a map of India with its states of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir chopped off. The truncated map, which labelled Arunachal Pradesh as ‘south Tibet’, was shown as a background during a news programme aired on the CCTV soon after Mr Modi landed in Xian early on May 14.

The controversial map cropped up within two days of a racist article in the state-run Global Times newspaper, which called Indians “inferior” and said Modi was playing tricks with the Chinese over the border dispute, noted May 15.

While China lays claim to Arunachal Pradesh as a part of its claim over Tibet, which India recognizes, the removal of Jammu and Kashmir was obviously designed to reassure India’s arch rival Pakistan that Sino-Pak relations will not in any way be affected by improvement in what is basically only a trade and cultural relations between China and India. Besides, the $10 billion Sino-India agreement dwarfs the $46 billion deal China signed with Pakistan during the recent visit of President Xi.

The $10 billion Sino-India deal covered 24 agreements and was signed between Mr Modi and his Chinese counterpart Mr Li Keqiang in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. After signing the deal, Mr Modi addressed a press conference with Mr Li, saying the two sides had agreed to explore a “mutually acceptable resolution” to the border issue, which he said had stemmed from a disagreement over a boundary line.

“Our conversations were candid, constructive and friendly. We covered all issues, including those that trouble smooth development of our relations,” the PTI news agency May 15 quoted Modi as saying. It said Modi raised concern over China’s investments in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and asked the latter to “reconsider” its approach on some of the issues and take a strategic and long term view to push the relationship which has been “complex” in recent decades.

“We have a historic responsibility to turn this relationship into a source of strength for each other and a source of good for the world,” May 15 quoted Modi as saying.

Mr Modi also said he had an “extremely productive” meeting with Mr Xi the day before and whom he had presented several Buddhist gifts. Modi himself had received a golden Buddha statue from the abbot of Dacien Buddhist Temple in Xian, Shaanxi province, during his visit there with Mr Xi the day before. The two were reported to have interacted for five hours, including a 90-minute talks, discussing a wide range of issues, from the boundary to United Nations Security Council reforms, and over delegation-level talks.

A statement issued by China’s foreign affairs ministry May 15 reported Mr Xi as saying to Mr Modi that their two countries “must work together to enhance mutual trust, control our differences and problems to avoid them interfering with bilateral relations”.

Besides the map controversy and the Global Times opinion piece, the Chinese state media has mostly been positive about Modi’s visit, said the report. The official Xinhua news agency May 15 quoted Li as saying, “We just had in-depth talks and touched a wide range of topics, which we both expected to yield common ground and results. It is fair to say that we met the expectations.”

Nevertheless, in a survey of more than 2,100 people on Modi’s visit, carried out by the Global Times, over 66% said they thought that the current visit will not change much in Sino-India relations.

Modi visits Shanghai on May 16 and address the India China Business Forum there. Twenty-one business deals worth $22 billion are to be signed between Indian and Chinese firms. The India Prime Minister next visits Mongolia.


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