Modi in Xi’an: Terracotta warriors, temple & Bollywood redefines diplomatic style

What has set Prime Minister Modi’s China’s visit apart is that he seeks to maintain a fine balance between economics, politics, ideology, sentiment and symbolism. Modi’s choice of Xi’an as the first venue of his China visit depicts a much broader agenda of managing relations with Asia’s largest economy. Prime Minister Modi’s arrival in Xian is significant and a departure from protocol by the Chinese government. The fact that President Xi Jinping personally received Mr Modi in his hometown underscores the importance China is attaching to his visit.
The visit by the Indian prime minister to Xian is a milestone of sort. Prime Minister Modi and President Xi holding summit talks in restricted format in the ancient city of Xian, PM Modi’s interaction with people in the city, his use of Hindi in his address, the grand welcome accorded to him and the break of the protocol in hosting the Indian PM first in Xi’an – these features mark a different diplomatic style that bodes well for the future trajectory of the India-China relations.

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Five Takeaways Modi should target in China

Many Indian prime ministers have visited abroad in pursuit of national interests, although such visits to China were few and far in between, with five PMs visiting Beijing six times in as many decades. Some of these visits – by Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and Vajpayee – have been described as “breakthroughs” for recognising Tibet and Taiwan as a part of China, with no reciprocal Chinese statement that Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh are a part of India.

With PM Modi planning to make a trip to China from May 14-16, the first time an Indian prime minister will be visiting Beijing in the first year of his first term, it is natural – as PM Modi told his Chinese interlocutors – to expect “concrete outcomes” during the visit. For this visit to be successful, India needs to seek several clarifications and positive approvals from China on a host of issues in the realm of bilateral relations and beyond.

During the visit of PM Modi to China, there will be a lot of pressure in both countries to make this visit a “breakthrough’ in the bilateral relations. Such a breakthrough is quite possible if India clearly draws the red, amber and green lines of interactions with China, without falling into the binary trap of whether China is an opportunity or a challenge.

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