Modi & Xi At Mamallapuram: How India Can Increase Diplomatic Clout

The Quint
Archival image of PM Modi and President Xi Jinping, used for representational purposes.

Beijing's decision to drop references to the role of the United Nations in resolving the Kashmir dispute may have saved the upcoming Mamallapuram informal summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping. This is, perhaps, the best indicator of just how fragile the reset - promised by the first informal summit that was held in Wuhan in April 2018 - has been.

On Tuesday, when observers were getting alarmed over the lack of a formal announcement on the dates of the Mamallapuram summit, which was supposed to be held that very week, the Chinese side probably did the needful, when its spokesperson reverted to China's position, that Kashmir was an issue best resolved through dialogue between the two sides.

Clearly, a year down the line, the lustre of the Wuhan process seems to have faded, even before it set in.

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Has the 'Lustre' of Wuhan Faded?

Following Wuhan, the Indian press release had mooted it as a "positive factor for stability amidst current global uncertainties". It was driven by the need to promote "strategic communications"- high-level interactions with the view of removing mistrust, and reduce the danger of miscalculation in the wake of the Doklam incident. Before the meeting and after it, we saw a surge in the frequency of high-level ministerial and official visits between India and China, and meetings between ministers and leaders of the two countries.

Among the important achievements was the strategic guidance to the two forces to maintain peace and tranquility on the border. This has broadly ensured peace on the LAC and also given a fillip to military exchanges between the two sides. Though India and China were not able to do a joint project in Afghanistan, they did manage a joint training programme for Afghan diplomats. And in May, China did come forward to lift its hold on the designation of Masood Azhar as a terrorist under the UN's 1267 Committee.

In the past year, the two sides have held their 6th Strategic Economic Dialogue and the 9th Finance Dialogue, and they have continued to cooperate in multilateral mechanisms like the Russia-India-China trilateral, BRICS, SCO and the G20.

New Delhi Will Deal With China By Displaying Resilience

Prime Minister Modi goes into the meeting with an even larger mandate than in 2014. The Indian economy may have weakened, but the global climate against China has turned far more adverse than it was in April 2018.

Just how this will play out remains to be seen. The first move here was the action in Jammu & Kashmir which China objected to, and took the initiative to organise a UN Security Council meet on the issue, the first since 1971. Subsequently, in its joint statement following his visit to Islamabad and in his UNGA speech, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi kept up the criticism, and referred to the need to take into account the UN position on the issue.

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