India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe were staying in the same hotel in Hangzhou for the G20 summit, and may have engaged in ritualistic pleasantries, but with China looking on, they will meet in Vientiane for a substantive bilateral meeting.
In a delicate geopolitical game, after engaging China’s President Xi Jinping in Hangzhou, PM Modi will now turn to India’s trusted strategic partner for support on the country’s crucial development agenda in which Tokyo has emerged as New Delhi’s prime partner. Significantly, Mr Xi and Mr Abe also met briefly on the sidelines of the G20 summit, signalling prospects of a thaw in strained bilateral relations between the two estranged rivals.
The meeting between Mr Modi and Mr Abe, who have forged a personal chemistry and special relationship, will be watched closely in Beijing for obvious reasons. China suspects India to be locked into a containment game with Japan and the US, a perception that has been repeatedly countered by New Delhi.
In Vientiane, Mr Modi will also hold a bilateral meeting with US President Barack Obama. Mr Modi met Mr Obama for a brief pull aside talk in Hanzhou, with Mr Obama lauding the Indian leader for the passage of the path-breaking Goods and Sales Tax. The two leaders will have substantive discussions in Laos, with India’s membership of the NSG topping the agenda.