- Beijing is learned to have told India that the defence drill could undermine sincere efforts by both sides to have a successful summit
- The Modi-Xi summit, while not officially announced yet, remains on schedule – for now – with President Xi Jinping likely to land in Chennai on October 11 around 2 pm
In a last-minute scare for the Modi-Xi informal summit next week, China has raised a strong objection to India’s ongoing Him-Vijay military exercise in Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui, who was earlier China’s ambassador to India, raised the issue with foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale in a meeting on Thursday.
Beijing is learned to have told India that the defence drill could undermine sincere efforts by both sides to have a successful summit. Indian authorities said the exercise was being held at least 100 km away from the LAC and that its timing had nothing to do with the informal summit as it had been planned months in advance.
The summit, while not officially announced yet, remains on schedule – for now – with President Xi Jinping, as a top government source revealed on condition of anonymity, likely to land in Chennai on October 11 around 2 pm. Later that evening, he is expected to travel to the temple town of Mamallapuram for a private dinner with PM Narendra Modi. This informal summit though will probably be of a shorter duration than Wuhan as Xi is not expected to spend more than 24 hours in India.
The Luo-Gokhale meeting here remained under the radar with neither side officially confirming the visit by Luo. ToI had first reported about it on October 3. A day earlier, TOI had also reported in detail about the army’s exercise in Arunachal.
The military exercise in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as a part of south Tibet, seems to have upset Beijing no end as it came just a week ahead of Xi’s scheduled arrival in Chennai. That India, as the host nation, is yet to officially announce dates for the summit betrays the sensitivities involved both here and in Beijing in scheduling what is probably the most demanding diplomatic engagement of the year for the government.
A spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Friday he wasn’t in a position to officially announce the visit, even though he underscored its significance by describing it as an important platform for the 2 leaders to exchange views on a range of issues.
Both sides realize that the second informal summit couldn’t have happened at a less opportune moment. China had described India’s decision to revoke the special status of J&K, after which Ladakh turned into separate Union territory, as undermining its sovereignty. India has found it difficult to accept that despite foreign minister S Jaishankar having explained to China, during his August Beijing visit, that Article 370 related developments were entirely an internal matter of India with “no implication for the external boundaries of India or the LAC with China”, Beijing helped Pakistan seek a UNSC meeting on the same issue days later.
India has maintained that cross-border terrorism is the main issue in J&K and the government is likely to prioritize the same in the summit. Both sides though realize that the informal summit was not originally meant to take a deep dive into the specifics of all outstanding issues and that there’s too much at stake to allow any single issue to derail the summit.
The Wuhan summit was a success in that the strategic guidance given by the 2 leaders to their respective militaries to build trust and mutual understanding helped prevent any major border flare-up in the past 18 months. The 2 countries will hope for a takeaway of similar significance from Mamallapuram if the summit does indeed happen.