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A lesser formal diplomacy

A lesser formal diplomacy
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan for an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jingping on April 27-28. The meetings between the two world leaders were without the usual formalities associated with such events. In the span of two days, the two leaders visited a museum, had a walk along the lake and also had a boat ride. Amid cultural programmes, special lunch and dinners, the two leaders held several one-on-one meetings. There was no set agenda. Neither any MoUs were to be signed, nor any joint-statement was to be issued. It was supposed to be heart-to-heart meeting. However, the two leaders discussed many crucial subjects, including the boundary management. Sources revealed that the two leaders agreed to give strategic guidance to their respective militaries. They also agreed that the military on both the sides needs to develop mutual trust. The two leaders have also agreed to carry out a joint project in Afghanistan. This will be the first Sino-India joint venture at the government level. The move indicates that the two countries have agreed to increase cooperation on international projects in a third country. India is already involved in several development projects in Afghanistan, especially in the highways sector. China has also many projects going in the country. So far, China has co-opted Pakistan in expanding its base in the war-ravaged country. Now, it is for the first time that the two countries will work jointly on an economic project. If India and China start cooperation on international economic projects, they will surely overcome many of the hurdles and blockades that exist in the relations of the two countries. Together, they can bring about the Asian Century.
There is bonhomie in the air. The trade relations between China and India are growing at a robust pace. There is a serious trade imbalance in favour of China. And when India tries to address this anomaly, India is actually at the doorstep of the big market that China is. The current bonhomie in the relations between the two countries can lead to the removal of many of the trade blockades as Indian businesses make a fresh push for more space in the Chinese market. The informality of the talks will allow the complex nature of trade talks to be more practical and responding to the need of the hour. India needs to cater to the Chinese market in a big way so that it improves its trade balance with the country.
A major problem that prevented the trade and political relations to grow to its fullest potential is the distrust between the people and governments of the two countries. If the distrust is eliminated, the two countries, which represent one-third of the world's population and China being the number 2 economy of the world, can benefit a great deal from each other. China is increasingly facing trade restrictions from the US. For China, India is a big and stable market, and it would not like to miss out on the opportunity that India represents today. Indian GDP grew at 7.2 per cent while the Chinese GDP grew by 6.8 per cent in 2017-18. There is a slowdown of economic activities in China whereas in India it is picking up at a faster pace. In this environment, there is a great scope for reciprocal co-operation in the field of trade and business. A large number of Indian businessmen and students, especially medical students, are already travelling to China frequently. The cooperation can be expanded even further.
After the 73-day standoff between the armies of the two countries in Doklam, the relations had hit a low. The usual cynicism about how much India can trust China was expressed. Indian army stood firm in Doklam in the face of Chinese transgressions in the area and foiled their attempt to build a road near the Indian borders. India's intents were clear that it will brook no compromise as far as safeguarding the Indian borders is concerned. India has undertaken an unprecedented outreach programme as far as its foreign policy initiatives are concerned. Besides enhancing the image and attractiveness of the country, Modi laid special focus on business relations. For this purpose, the government has introduced overarching programmes like 'Make In India'. The latest informal summit between Modi and Jinping shows that the relations between the two countries can be less formal and more oriented to tap the synergies that the coming together of India and China represents.
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