Modi meets Premier Li: Will terror bring India, China closer?


KUALA LUMPUR: Will terror bring Asia’s two rising powers closer in a meaningful connect? Going by the latest meeting between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, enhanced security and counter-terror cooperation will form an increasingly important part of the evolving relations between the two countries.

The audacity with which the Islamic State militants plotted and executed a cold-blooded massacre in Paris a week ago may have goaded China to take the step, but seeking closer counter-terror cooperation with India is also dictated by Beijing’s growing threat perception from Islamist militancy brewing in its outlying Xinjiang province and the fear of Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan spilling into its restive border regions.

Building upon Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to China that saw the formation of a high-level ministerial mechanism on security cooperation, Mr Modi and Mr Li held wide-ranging talks at Hotel Shangri-la in Kuala Lumpur on November 21. The meeting with the Chinese premier was the first engagement of Mr Modi after he touched down in Malaysia for a three-day visit to attend the India-ASEAN and East Asia summits, indicating the importance both countries place on bolstering their security relations that continue to be marred by a festering trust deficit that emanate from a decades-long boundary dispute.

Terrorism topped the agenda, with both leaders agreeing and emphasising that closer counter-terror cooperation between India and China was essential to ensure peace and stability in the Asian hemisphere. The two leaders agreed that international terrorism was the biggest threat facing the world and all countries should eschew politics to combat terrorism, said Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, in Kuala Lumpur. The two leaders agreed on the need to enhance strategic coordination on the issue of terrorism, the spokesperson added.

India is hoping that counter-terror cooperation with China will prod Beijing to use its leverage to persuade its all-weather ally and client state to crack down on Pakistan-based terror outfits which routinely target India and unleash mayhem across the region.

During Rajnath Singh’s recent visit to China, India and China agreed to set up a ministerial mechanism to link India’s Home Ministry with China’s Ministry of Public Security. The ministerial mechanism will encompass intelligence- sharing, an exchange of information on terrorists’ activities, law enforcement, cyber-crimes, trans-border crimes and drug trafficking.

Prime Minister Modi and Mr Li also discussed closer cooperation to stem the global slowdown and decided to collaborate closely to ensure comprehensive, equitable and balanced outcome at the global climate summit COP 21 in Paris.

Besides global issues, the two leaders also focused on taking forward the agenda and vision statement firmed up during Mr Modi’s visit to China in May with special focus on increased participation of Chinese companies in bolstering infrastructure and modernising Indian Railways. India reiterated its concerns over the widening trade deficit, with the Chinese leader repeating again Beijing’s ritualistic assurance to address the issue on a priority basis. In this context, India sought an early meeting of the high-level task force that was set up during Mr Modi’s visit to China to discuss modalities that could tangibly reduce trade deficit that bodes ill for the future trajectory of India-China economic relations. China has emerged as India’s second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade exceeding $70 billion.

(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, and is in Kuala Lumpur to report and analyse ASEAN and other related summits)

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Manish Chand
Manish Chand
Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network ( and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.