In one of China’s happiest cities, the leaders of India and China indicated the beginning of a new chapter in bilateral relations as they met for their first heart-to-heart summit meeting in Wuhan to build trust and refurbish their challenging relationship.
Sporting a Nehru jacket with a tricolor pocket square, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook hands warmly with his Chinese host, President Xi Jinping, who was a picture of serenity in his ink blue suit. An ethnic dance performance greeted the two leaders as they exchanged small talk and admired a splendid array of relics at Hubei Provincial Museum. The museum was a perfect setting to underline centuries-old connections between the two ancient civilizations which have morphed into modern economic powerhouse.
“If we talk about Mohenjo Daro and Harappa civilizations in India, all the development happened along river banks”, PM Modi told President Xi. The stroll in the museum also saw Mr Modi nostalgically reminiscing about his first visit to Wuhan when he was the chief minister of Gujarat years ago.
Small talk between the two tallest leaders of India and China set the tone for free-wheeling discussion on big issues that shadow India-China relations.
Placing India-China relations in the larger perspective, Mr Modi unfurled possibilities of dovetailing a new era in China with his dream of New India. “Your dream of a new era and our dream of a New India are steps in the direction and will benefit the whole world,” he told President Xi.
“We(India-China) have the responsibility to work for 40% of the world population, this means trying to successfully get the world rid of many problems. To work together towards this is a big opportunity for us,” he said.
“The people of India feel really proud that I’m maybe the first Prime Minister of India, for whom, you (Chinese President) have come out of the capital twice to receive me,” PM Modi told Mr Xi during the delegation-level talks in Wuhan.
Mr Modi also expressed hope that “such informal summits become a tradition between both the countries.” “I’ll be happy, if in 2019, we can have such informal summit in India,” he said.
The two-day informal talks in Wuhan looks set to unveil a new paradigm of relations between the two emerging Asian powers which will focus on convergences rather than differences.
The first informal summit meeting between the leaders of India and China is taking place against the backdrop of a deepening dissonance over a host of issues in India-China relationship.
“Two important leaders, who have arrived, are engaging in such consultations for the first time. It augurs well for multi-stakeholder political order”, said Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of BJP and a sharp observer of India-China relations.
“The unprecedented dialogue in an informal, cordial way shows that New Delhi is eager to repair the frayed bonds with China by effectively controlling projected differences. Both sides need to build mutual trust to make sure that any conflict like the Dong Lang (Doklam) one will never happen again”, said Long Xingchun, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) 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.
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