On the eve of a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday informal day-long meetings between them would improve relations between the countries in the long term. Her comment comes a day before Modi is scheduled to meet the Chinese president for the second time in a couple of months at the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO). Speaking at seminar “Trends and Transformations in China’s Geo-Politics, Strategy, Society and Business”, jointly organised by the Chennai Centre for the China Studies and National Maritime Foundation, Tamil Nadu, she said: “This long-term, informal engagement … will have some outcome in the short term, but without doubt, in the long term relations between India and China will benefit from this engagement.”
The prime minister’s USP lies in forging personal relations with Chinese leaders, particularly the president, as was the case with the president of Russia, she said. She said her ministry had requested a hotline between India and China, helping in communication between the two countries in the case of any disputes such as Doklam.
“After October 2017, we are looking at a different China where the leadership has turned quite a lot in terms of internal restructuring,” she said. The country started moving away from an export-driven economy to a consumption-driven one, and industry has been revamped with a focus on the domestic market.
The yuan has been aspiring to become a global currency. There was also a lot of rationalisation in the armed forces, allowing for more dependence on technology rather than manpower and making it more theatre-drive than border area-driven. The Central Military Commission has been reorganised and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been raised in different layers. The reduction in the number of troops by 300,000 after reforms would result in more money and resources flowing to infrastructure and technology development. “We take a cue from it,” she said.
While readjustments are taking place, the external operations of China have not been diluted and the recent example is setting up base in Djibouti. “What happens to the economic burden, which may result in terms of servicing loans, is a different issue. I see a linkage where a bond is created through economic assistance. After that, it could be a different ball game where economic assistance is serviceable, continual and extendable further,” added Sitharaman.