Towards “Tranquillity and Peace” along LAC
The ice of confrontation along the Himalayan borders is expected to melt as both India and China signal to respect each other’s “core concerns” and work for “tranquillity and peace” along the frontier, following the two-day informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan recently. The summit, which is a first-of-its-kind, was undoubtedly a testament to the resolve and flexibility of India’s China policy and define a pathway that could transform the bilateral ties into a major force for tackling global problems. Moreover, it assumes significance as many analysts viewed the meeting as a fresh, virtuous cycle in Indo-China relations.
The summit, aimed at forging consensus to resolve the issues with follow-up actions by officials than announcing any agreements, was something the leaders of the two countries have never tried so far. With both leaders met informally at a city far from the national capitals and spent time together to exchanging views on overarching issues of bilateral and global importance, a critical bilateral relationship, which has been troubled by festering irritants along the border over the past few months, seems to be cemented. The warm shake hands and talks over dining table between the two leaders have cooled down the rising heat between the majors of the Asian continent that has been a hot topic globally in the recent past.
Last year, India and China were locked in their most serious border crisis in the last three decades at Dokalam region over a road construction by the Chinese army beyond its territory, following which both nations have engaged in verbal confrontations. Ever since then, both India and China have beefed up their military presence along the region. The diplomatic ties have been seriously affected and has further reflected in many other scenarios including India’s Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) bid, calls for branding Pakistan a terror-sponsoring nation at UN, India’s opposition towards China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative etc. when the voices of both the nations did not synchronise mutually.
At Wuhan, both leaders have issued a strategic guidance to their respective militaries to reduce the heat on their disputed borderline. A limited joint-patrolling concept that has been successfully piloted at two sensitive points at the border is likely to be extended to other areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The tension that both sides had mounded along the boundary over the past few years and culminated in the Doklam stand-off is expected to gradually ease. Both the leaders have stressed on the fact that the simultaneous emergence of India and China as two large economies and major powers with strategic and decisional autonomy, has implications of regional and global significance.
Prime Minister Modi and President Xi have reviewed developments in India-China relations from the strategic and long-term perspective. They agreed to significantly enhance efforts to build on the convergences through the established mechanisms to create the broadest possible platform for the future relationship. Having agreed that both sides have the maturity and wisdom to handle the differences through peaceful discussion bearing in mind the importance of respecting each other's sensitivities, concerns and aspirations, the Himalayan ice is tended to melt slowly.
The two leaders have expressed their support for the work of the Special Representatives on the India China Boundary Question and urged them to intensify their efforts to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. To this end, they have issued strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication to build trust and mutual understanding in the management of border affairs. Modi and Xi have also recognized the common threat posed by terrorism and reiterated their resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They have committed themselves to cooperate on counter-terrorism, which is yet to be witnessed, especially when Pakistan becomes a topic of discussion at the UN.
The two leaders have highly assessed the opportunity for direct, free, and candid exchange of views offered by the Informal Summit and agreed on the utility of holding more such dialogues in the future. “I will be happy, if in 2019, we can have such informal summit in India,” said Narendra Modi. “We 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 added.
According to China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui, to pursue their personal chemistry that strengthened during the Wuhan Summit, both leaders will have at least three opportunities to meet in 2018 - Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit to be held in June in Qingdao, China, the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa and the next G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. If the meet at Wuhan has helped both India and China in forging a common understanding of the future direction of bilateral ties built upon mutual respect for each other's developmental aspirations, many more similar “Informal Heart-to-Heart Summits” will be appreciable for the sake of regional stability in South Asia.