New Delhi: It is difficult to identify any major tangible takeaways from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day trip to China but it is foolhardy to expect visible results from every visit that he makes abroad. The fact is that it was a hugely significant visit in so far as it contributed a great deal to a better understanding between the two countries. There was an underlying candidness in talks between Modi and president Xi Jinping and a refreshing departure from the diplomatic reluctance to call a spade a spade that characterizes bilateral exchanges.
Be it their strategic economic dialogue, issues of military-to-military cooperation (itself a solid confidence-building measure), better connectivity which is the spine on which trade and investment is positioned, there were fruitful exchanges. The India-China boundary question was discussed at length and it was agreed that for enhanced border defence cooperation, a “hotline” would be established between the military headquarters of the two countries. There was also a hint that the Line of Actual Control could be treated as an international border while the two countries get along with their co-operative efforts in numerous fields of co-operation and convergence.
A ‘sisterhood’ relationship was forged between Karnataka & Sichuan; Aurangabad & Dunhuang, Chennai & Chongqing, Hyderabad & Qingdao fulfilling Prime Minister Modi’s promise to give scope for greater initiative between Indian states and cities in China. To address India’s grouse that India’s balance of trade needs to be corrected with greater Chinese acceptance of India’s exports, it was decided to expand economic relations in Infrastructure, IT, Pharma, Agriculture and Manufacturing, areas in which India has inherent strengths. India held out an olive branch by announcing that it would extend electronic tourist visas to Chinese nationals and that India will celebrate the “Year of China” next year. At present, the inflow of tourists from China into India is negligible. This may well get a major boost with growing interest in the two countries to know each other well.
While China will open a new Consulate General in Chennai, India will open one in Chengdu. India’s ISRO and China space agency will collaborate in Deep Space Exploration. Mr. Modi’s joining Weibo, the Chinese social media network, is a clever move. That it will lead to greater interest of young and educated Chinese in India is beyong question. The interactive session Modi had with Chinese business leaders may not bring tangible immediate results but it will improve the atmospherics between the two countries.