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Stand-off with China back in focus after PM Modi’s return from foreign trip

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-07-2017 Mayank Aggarwal

New Delhi: All eyes are now on India’s ongoing face-off with China with Prime Minister Narendra Modi back home after a visit to Israel and the G-20 summit in Germany.

“The Israel visit was of course historic as no Indian PM had ever visited the country. India also moves in a strategic space with Israel with agreements on sharing of latest technologies and innovation in fields of agriculture and water. G-20 is of course different and has different issues. But India managed to register its issues with a separate statement on terrorism,” said former diplomat Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, who is also a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank.

Last week, Modi undertook a historic visit to Israel on Tuesday—the first by an Indian Prime Minister—and the two nations elevated their ties to a strategic partnership. The two countries agreed to boost trade from the current $5 billion a year to $20 billion annually in the next five years. The chemistry between Modi and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu added to the attention the visit garnered.

Former foreign secretary of India Lalit Mansingh said, “In Israel, India’s concerns about international terrorism and security situation were discussed. With Israel, we are now entering into a new period of strategic partnership with focus on agriculture and water. That is a very special relationship,” he said.

In Germany, at the G-20 meeting, Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders’ informal gathering hosted by China. But there has been no official word on whether the two had any discussion about the border stand-off. The two leaders “had a conversation on a range of issues”, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay tweeted.

“It (the stand-off) doesn’t appear to be big but it has to be also looked in the context of Chinese domestic politics,” Chakravarty said. Mansingh said he doesn’t think the situation has gone out of hand.

“We don’t know what was discussed between PM Modi and Xi Jinping. No announcement has been made but one presumes that they would have referred to the situation. We don’t know what behind the scenes discussions are taking place. I don’t think it is going to lead to conflict. We have faced such situations in the past. It’s an understated border. In this case, the thing is that it involves Bhutan and we are fulfilling our treaty obligations with Bhutan and defending its interests. It simply is a complicated situation. I don’t think it has gone out of hand,” Mansingh said.

The experts’ view about the stand-off not going out of hand finds support in the official Indian statement that India issued at the Brics meeting at Hamburg, praising China.

According to the statement, Modi appreciated the “momentum in BRICS under the chairmanship of Chinese President Xi and extended full cooperation and best wishes for the BRICS Xiamen Summit.”

The 9th Brics summit is scheduled to be held in the Chinese city of Xiamen in September.

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