The optics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping as a pair in a laidback mood in an idyllic setting was excellent, yet deceptive. Plogging by Modi left the popular seaside resort more salubrious and demonstrated his commitment to Swachh Bharat. The Chinese leader appeared pleased by the gift of a special gold-and-red silk shawl featuring him. Also, the summit yielded the new alliterative coinage “Chennai Connect”, a variant of “Wuhan Spirit”.
That said, the high profile summit can be reckoned only as a “qualified success” as both the leaders stuck to their known positions on the bilateral and global issues and made no significant breakthroughs in the candid, "heart-to-heart” talks. The decision “to prudently manage the differences and not let them become disputes and show sensitivity in ties” encapsulates the outcome of the summit.
It is hard to know what exactly transpired in a tête-à-tête unless it is divulged for public consumption. The Indian side categorically stated that the Kashmir issue did not figure in the one-to-one meeting. Neither side threw light on the “domestic developments” said to have been discussed in the confidential deliberations. Jinping briefing Modi on Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s recent visit to Beijing made just a footnote. The Chinese leader had earlier stated that he was keeping a close watch on Kashmir. PM Modi should not go by what Xi and Khan say or don’t say but follow the requirements of our democracy.
On the positive side, China agreed to set up a high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism for addressing the issue of trade and investment imbalance. India’s annual trade deficit with China runs over $53 billion. But as for resolving border disputes, no perceptible progress has been made in the parleys. In a spirit of good neighbourliness, China must stop aggressive patrolling and transgressions by the People's Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control.
G David Milton, Maruthancode
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