China’s media has hailed the two-day informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping as a ‘major chance’ to lift recently strained relations.
“This somewhat surprise diplomatic initiative comes at an important time for China-India relations, considered one of the most consequential for the 21st century,” said a commentary in the official China Daily, headlined “A major chance to lift ties”, by strategic expert Yi Fan.
“Bilateral relations, at times, have been affected by historical grievances and geostrategic tensions. It will therefore be good for the two countries, as well as the world, if they manage their ties well,” the commentary said.
It also pointed out that both were at a crucial stage of reform and modernisation with a lot they can share with each other to achieve their similar goals-the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and the vision of New India.
Listing some of the irritants in ties, the commentary said that in India “failure to gain accession to the UN Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and Beijing’s pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative with other South Asian countries [are seen] as China’s steps to gain geostrategic advantage and thwart its efforts to become a “leading power”.
“On its part, China will be watching India’s role in the “Indo-Pacific” strategy initiated by the United States keeping China in mind,” it said.
Hence, it noted, the Wuhan summit would provide “a much needed opportunity for strategic communication at the top level.”
“Rather than focusing on specific issues, such heart-to-heart talks can seek to close the perception gap and restore strategic trust, and form new consensus in order to put bilateral ties back on the track of steady growth,” it said.
Another article in the usually hawkish tabloid Global Times, by strategic scholar Long Xingchun who is director of the Centre for Indian Studies at China West Normal University, noted that the Doklam standoff “did not happen all of a sudden, but was the result of the accumulation of mistrust between the two countries.”
“India was discontented with and worried about China. When India applied for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, China’s attitude toward it was the most passive of the five current permanent members. India’s membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group was also opposed by China on the grounds that New Delhi is not a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although there are other countries who also opposed India’s application, it ascribed its failure to China’s obstruction. After these disputes, the Indian government and media considered China hostile,” Long wrote.
“China also has many doubts about India. While the Indian government promised not to support Tibetan separatism, it has harboured separatists over a long period of time and tacitly approved them engaging in activities that jeopardize China’s interests in India. In recent years, India has drawn close to the US and Japan, cooperating with the US over Washington’s rebalance to Asia-Pacific strategy and is even possibly setting up an Asian version of NATO together with the US and Japan to contain China. India is not only firmly opposed to the Belt and Road initiative, but also warned South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka to reject it,” he added.
In the light of these accumulating conflicts which exposed the fragility of ties, Long said both agreed that “disputes must be controlled’.
“During the Xi-Modi meeting, China should let India know that Beijing does not define New Delhi as an opponent, nor seek to hinder its development,” he said.
“The purpose of cooperation between China and South Asian countries is not to besiege India. China encourages India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir conflict in a peaceful way. China should convince India that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is economic cooperation and does not influence China’s neutrality. Resolving border disputes is not an urgent task of the two countries. Beijing and New Delhi should jointly maintain peace and stability in border areas,” he added.
India for its part, he said, ‘should let China believe that it will never take part in an Asian version of NATO or the Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at opposing China.’
Comparing the summit to Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 ice-breaking visit following another border stand-off, Long said the summit could be “a cornerstone of a stable long-term relationship between China and India.”