Upping the ante over its border stand-off with India and Bhutan in the Doklam area near Sikkim, China on Thursday said the “atmosphere” was “not right” for a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. India, however, retorted by saying such a meeting had neither been sought nor planned. Modi’s preplanned meetings, on the sidelines of the two-day summit beginning Friday, are with Argentina, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and Vietnam, said the spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs. “In addition, the PM will participate in the BRICS leaders’ meeting. There is no change in the PM’s schedule,” the spokesperson said. BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. It was earlier speculated that Modi and Xi might have a ‘pull-aside’ meeting at the BRICS leaders’ event on Friday. It is not unusual for leaders to have informal, unstructured discussions on the sidelines of structured meetings.
A Modi-Xi ‘pull-aside’, despite denials from the two sides, remains possible. The Chinese president is also slated to have bilateral meetings with other heads of government. China and India have been engaged in a stand-off in Doklam, near the Bhutan tri-junction, for the past three weeks after a Chinese Army's construction party attempted to build a road. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang expressed hope that “India can immediately withdraw the border troops to the Indian side of the boundary to uphold the peace tranquillity of the China and India border areas”. “I think this is the precondition for any meaningful peace talks between the two sides,” he told a media briefing, when asked about the meeting between Modi and Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Geng confirmed that Xi would be attending the BRICS leaders’ meeting. India said it was “deeply concerned at the recent Chinese actions and has conveyed to the Chinese government that such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India”. Amid China’s aggressive posturing in the Asiatic region, India and Vietnam discussed “concrete and feasible” steps to protect their interests while seeking to bolster their strategic bilateral ties. Vietnam and several other countries are involved in territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. China has also been objecting to India's oil exploration projects in maritime areas offered by Vietnam in the South China Sea. Chinese Army conducting drills simulating battle scenarios Amid the Sikkim stand-off, the Chinese Army is carrying out exercises simulating real battle scenarios at high-altitude areas in Tibet, testing new equipment, including a light battle tank. The exercises were being carried at an altitude of 5,100 metres, the Chinese language service of the state-run Xinhua news agency reported from the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Besides testing the new equipment, the exercises involve conducting live firing exercises. The exercises also involve combat operations command, combat synergies, live fire shooting training, and comprehensive inspection of arms integration, the report said. PTI