Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met in Wuhan City, the capital city of Hubei Province, for an informal summit along with a series of important meetings. This was the second time that President Xi came out of Beijing to greet a foreign leader – hence showing a glimpse of his ‘personal diplomacy’. Such a gesture from Xi surprised many, especially because both the countries were recently at loggerheads due to Chinese construction of a road in Doklam near a trijunction border area, known as Donglang.
Wuhan Summit took place on April 27 and 28, which was both ‘significant and fruitful’ as well as a milestone in Indo-China ties. Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, provides further insights into why this summit took place and what it means for the future of the region.
Zhaohui, while sharing the details of the meetings, writes, “President Xi told Prime Minister Modi that he had only hosted a foreign leader twice outside Beijing over the past five years of his tenure, and both were for Modi Ji. The two leaders spent nine hours together in seven events, including four one-on-one meetings, walking and tea-tasting along the lakeside, boat ride, and museum tour. The protocol arrangements eventually made the guest relaxed, comfortable and feel at home”.
On the future direction of Indo-China ties, Zhaohui writes, “the two leaders agreed to continue to maintain strategic communication in different forms. They discussed strategic autonomy, concerted efforts to realise the Asian Century and reaffirmed that China and India are good neighbours, good friends and good partners. The two leaders agreed to promote trade cooperation while mitigating trade deficit, strengthen exchanges in the fields of movie, sports, tourism, youth and local contacts. President Xi mentioned that he had watched Bollywood movies such as “Dangal”. The two leaders also agreed to establish a high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism”.
One important point of convergence between the two leaders, as Zhaohui notes, was that “the two leaders further deepened their understanding with each other and shared similar views on the historical position, stage and goal of development of China and India. The two sides viewed each other’s developmental intentions in a positive way and decided to build a Closer Developmental Partnership in an equal, mutually beneficial and sustainable manner”.
This need for understanding of individual goals resulted in President Xi explaining the “Two Centenary Goals”, “Made in China 2025”, employment, urbanisation, environmental protection, particularly anti-corruption and poverty alleviation, among other initiatives, to Modi. In reciprocation, Modi briefed Xi on India’s “neighbourhood first” policy and the concept of “the world as one”, along with “building a community of shared future for mankind”.
Recent developments and Xi-Modi meetings suggest that both the countries have pursued a policy of reconciliation and building mutual trust for individual and shared regional goals. Moreover, an important agreement, namely ‘China India Plus’ cooperation, was also reached where both the countries agreed to speeding up cooperation in Afghanistan.
The Chinese Ambassador to India makes another interesting observation when he notes that both China and India are relevant in global politics, mainly due to the rise of the East and decline of the West. He also believes that the summit underscores the importance of neighbours having the ability to coexist with each other without judging each other’s intentions on key issues of development and cooperation.
Zhaohui concludes on a key note saying that “strategic communications, meetings, heart-to-heart dialogues are important. Equally important is to implement the consensus, transmit personal friendship between the two leaders down to the common people, and take more concrete actions. Wuhan Summit is not a talk shop and we have a lot of work to do in the future such as trade deficit mitigation, acceleration of Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) process, cooperation in Afghanistan and establishment of high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism.”