It is happy augury that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday shook hands and had a conversation on a “range of issues” during the BRICS leaders’ informal meeting in Hamburg, Germany (The BRICS bloc comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The meeting, though brief, assumes significance as it comes a day after a top Chinese official said the “atmosphere” is “not right” for a bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.
China and India have been engaged in a stand-off in the Doklam area near the Bhutan tri-junction for the past three weeks after a Chinese Army’s construction party attempted to build a road. Doka La is the Indian name of the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. The atmosphere has been vitiated with the Chinese in particular holding out threats that have left a bad taste, reminding India of the 1962 war in which India suffered reverses.
At the BRICS meeting President Xi appreciated India’s strong resolve against terrorism and success on economic growth, as per a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs. Modi too lauded the Chinese president for showing positive direction to the BRICS grouping. Whether all this is mere hyperbole for the occasion or it reflects a thaw in Sino-Indian tense relations only time will tell. Undeterred by the fact that President Xi is Pakistan’s main prop in its pursuit of terror against India, Prime Minister Modi urged leaders from the BRICS nations to show leadership in fighting terrorism and also asked the G20 nations to collectively crack down on terror financing, safe havens and supporters and sponsors of terrorism.
There was no direct reference to Pakistan but the message was clear that there was dire need to rein in that country. So as not to sound terror-obsessed, Modi balanced it with economic goals, emphasising that it was necessary to work together for sustained global economic recovery. He said “BRICS has been a strong voice and needs to show leadership on terrorism and global economy.” Besides, he advocated a collective voice against the practice of protectionism, especially in the spheres of trade and movement of knowledge and professionals. All in all, the Indian message was put across effectively. One can only keep one’s fingers crossed that the Sino-Indian standoff will move towards resolution at least for now, until further talks are held.