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Millennium Post

Bilateral space

Bilateral space

One could choose their friends and family but not their neighbours; irrespective of how relations with neighbours develop over time, they never cease to be a focus of diplomacy and external matters with internal significance. India's gigantic neighbour, China is one with which India has had several meaningful association in the past—the ancient times being particularly significant in terms of exchange of valuable knowledge and establishment of trade routes which, in turn, facilitated several other developments. India and China share much in common, from the rich civilisational history to that of oppressive colonialism, and in the most recent times, the drive to emerge as global superpowers. With common ambitions also come in the scope of rivalry which is the likely factor in impeding ambitions of the more powerful competitor. Thus comes in diplomacy to smoothen the edges in the relentless uphill climb towards imposing accomplishments of respective national goals. In a Wuhan-like informal summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives his Chinese counterpart for a cultural tour in Tamil Nadu's coastal town of Mamallapuram. The selection of this particular place is with a view to the strong historical linkages it had with China's Fujian province. Mamallapuram's connection with China goes back 1,300 years. The coastal town 56 km south of Chennai has ancient links with Buddhism and China through the maritime outreach of the Pallava dynasty. It was during his reign that Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist monk-traveller, visited the Pallava capital at Kanchipuram. Warming up with shared history, after the state premiers witnessed a cultural programme at the temple complex in Mamallapuram, Saturday will mark the two leaders having a one-on-one meeting at the Fisherman's Cove resort to be followed by delegation-level talks. Numerous contemporary themes most of which are very dynamic in nature mark relations between India and China in this day and age. Given that, it seems rather unlikely that the symbolism of Mamallapuram might succeed in having any impact on China's adamant assertions over matters like Jammu and Kashmir and other relevant issues with India. However, a softer approach by means such as an informal summit might propose some hope to some extent.

The bilateral space between Delhi and Beijing came considerably under a shadow after Delhi unilaterally decided to revoke special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Taking this informal meet as an opportunity to convey to Xi Jingping that Beijing must be sensitive to India's core concerns is, in fact, more than relevant as China is also condemned across the world in hush tones for its treatment of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang province. Much furore followed after India made the bold move on August 5 and bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. An intensely unsettled Pakistan left no stone unturned to consolidate internal support against India's internal decision. Given the disputed status of the erstwhile Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan's misconception and policy-oriented focus on Kashmir (sans Jammu and Ladakh) has been a tactic for its own people and against India since the inception of the Pakistani state. While a secular India makes no demarcation along communal lines, Pakistan's orientation for the Muslim has been the cause of persisting trouble since the days following Independence. Pakistan's relations with China, on the other hand, pertain less to ideological and communal bearings and are more oriented towards business. Given China's anti-Muslim drive, there is no scope of Pakistan depending on China the way it depends on the Middle Eastern region and the various organisations of these countries. But, however, the matter to squarely put India, Pakistan, and China in the same arena is China's ambitious CPEC project that passes through Gilgit Baltistan region in the disputed Pakistan-occupied Territory. As a matter of economic gain, it is in China's interest to woo Pakistan for the territory but that lands it in a difficult spot with India. With such an issue in the backdrop, new and updated confidence building measures along the border will be one of the major themes of discussion during this two-day second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is said that the confidence building measures, which were agreed upon in 1993 and 1995, have become outdated with the advent of technology over the last 25 years. The idea is to maintain peace along the Line of Actual Control and to prevent any skirmishes from spiralling out of control. What is therefore actually required is that the two leaders discuss and deliberate over matters primarily, and should the need be, discuss along the previously established confidence building measures with relevant updates and/or supplements. Taking forward the idea of a joint project in Afghanistan to train the second batch of Afghan diplomats comprising civil servants and police officers is a relevant matter to be covered in the talks. Getting together to tackle terrorism and exchanging notes on the next counter-terrorism exercises between the two countries is said to be held in December. On the most dominant area of relations, trade, the issues of market access and deficit are to be broached and discussed. Although some regulatory issues have been eased, there hasn't been much improvement in trade figures. In 2018, bilateral trade reached an all-time high of US$95.54 billion — India's exports were US$ 18.84 billion. Given how numerous other dynamic and much more important areas of concern exist between India and China, it is imperative that relations be focussed on mutual gains and wellbeing.

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