NEW DELHI: Faced with irritants like the boundary issue and China’s plans for infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a tough task as he meets the Chinese leadership during his three-day visit to China from Thursday May 14 which he hoped will set a “new milestone” for Asia.
Modi, who is undertaking his first visit to China as Prime Minister, will reach the ancient city of Xi’an, the home town of President Xi Jinping, for a summit meeting, an unusual departure from normal protocol and seen as a reciprocal gesture by the Chinese leader who was hosted by Modi in Ahmedabad when he visited India in September last year.
“I am looking forward to the trip to China… the 21st century belongs to Asia,” the Prime Minister told Chinese media ahead of his visit.
The Prime Minister, who spoke in Hindi, hoped that his visit will “further deepen” India-China relations and set a “new milestone” for Asia and developing countries.
“I believe that my trip to China will not only deepen the China-India friendship, but also set a new milestone for the relations between developing countries in Asia as well as around the world. There is no doubt about that,” he told state-run CCTV ahead of this visit.
He said India and China have made great progress in bilateral relations in recent years and managed their differences with patience and maturity.
“Interacted with the Chinese media, where I highlighted the strong potential of India-China ties,” Modi tweeted.
“I talked about our shared responsibility to help developing nations, especially in poverty eradication,” he added.
In another tweet, he said, “Asia, being the land of Buddha has the responsibility to ensure that this is a century free from war.”
Modi noted that he had met President Xi three times during the last one year and held extensive talks on a wide range of issues.
This is first time since Xi took over power two years ago that he will be receiving a foreign leader outside Beijing and will spend considerable time informally interacting with Modi.
The only other leader Xi has spent time walking around was with Barack Obama last year during APEC summit when he took the US President around Zhongnanhai, the imperial garden in Beijing where the top Chinese leadership resides.
But the list of problems both countries face are considerable, ranging from the festering border dispute to China’s support for India’s arch-rival Pakistan.
President Xi had during his visit to Pakistan on April 20 announced a USD 46 billion package to construct infrastructure including highways and hydel power projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through PoK to the Gwadar port in Balochistan.
New Delhi has lodged a protest with Beijing over the China-Pakistan economic corridor. . Serious differences continue to prevail on the border issue even as both sides are making efforts to ensure that peace and tranquility prevails.
China is not keen on the clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) proposed by Modi last year during the Chinese President’s visit.
The clarification of LAC ahead of the resolution of the boundary was expected to restrict aggressive patrolling from both sides.
Two incursions by the Chinese troops in the Ladakh area during Premier Li Keqiang and Xi’s visits to India in the last two years overshadowed the trips.
The incidents prompted Modi to suggest to Xi last year that clarification of LAC would greatly contribute in efforts to maintain peace and tranquility of the border where troops from both sides often jostle to assert their claims and counter claims.
The issue was also discussed during the 18th round of the border talks held in March this year.
China says the border dispute is confined only to 2,000 km mostly in Arunachal Pradesh whereas India asserts that the dispute covered the western side of the border spanning to about 4,000 km, especially the Aksai Chin area annexed by China in the 1962 war.
Besides having restricted talks with Modi, in his native Xi’an city, Xi would take him on a tour of the iconic Wild Goose Pagoda built in 6th century AD in recognition of monk Xuan Zang’s contribution in popularizing Buddhism.
The visit to the spiritual structure assumes significance as Xuan undertook a journey to India in 645 AD through the ancient Silk Road and returned home after a 17-year-long sojourn with precious Buddhist scriptures.
Modi would also be given a traditional Chinese imperial Tang dynasty welcome before the two leaders settle for a banquet.
In all, the two leaders are expected to have threadbare discussions on the border issue, China’s push for Maritime Silk Road (MSR) project over which India has reservations and India’s big push for Chinese investments which will not happen without the nod from Beijing.
China has already announced USD 40 billion fund for the Silk Road projects.
From Xi’an, Modi will fly to Beijing where he will hold extensive talks with Premier Li Keqiang on the entire gamut of bilateral ties.
“A full range of political issues would be discussed – bilateral ties, regional issues, multilateral issues. Not just political matters but economic issues will also come up, issues relating to trade, investment to our collaboration on infrastructure projects, and I think a broader set of people-to-people contact-related issues,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said on the eve of the visit.
Both sides will sign several agreements to bolster trade, investment and other diverse areas. During Modi’s stay in Beijing, the first meeting of the India-China State and Provincial Leaders’ Forum would be held attended by Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat Devendra Fadnavis and Anandiben Patel respectively.
The Prime Minister will also witness a Yoga-Tai Chi joint event at the Temple of Heaven and deliver a public address at the Tsinghua University in Beijing.
The Prime Minister will have a business stop at Shanghai where he will meet Chinese CEOs, visit the Fudan University where he will inaugurate the Centre for Gandhian Studies. He will also be addressing a community event in Shanghai.
On the second leg of his visit, Modi will reach Mongolia on May 17. “There is a rare honor being bestowed on our Prime Minister because this is for the first time on a holiday the Parliament of Mongolia is going to allow a foreign leader to speak and address the membership there,” said Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East).
The Prime Minister will meet Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to strengthen bilateral cooperation in diverse areas.
The two sides will ink several agreements including one on application of nuclear technology for cancer cure, solar and wind energy, traditional systems of medicine and homeopathy, cyber security and other areas.
The Prime Minister will also attend a mini Naadam festival which includes display of horse racing, traditional wrestling and archery.
This will be the first ever visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia and takes place in the backdrop of celebrations of the 25th year of democracy in Mongolia and 60 years of its diplomatic relations with India.
Moving to South Korea on the last leg of his three-nation visit, Modi will meet President Park Geun-hye, followed by signing of several agreements including one on Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, shipping, transport, highways, electric power development and other areas. He will also address an Indian community reception.
Bilateral trade is currently at about USD 16 billion.
There are 300 Korean companies who have invested USD 3 billion in India and employ 40,000 workers. Indian investment in Korea is close to USD 2 billion and it is looking forward to greater access in Korea to pharmaceutical and IT products.
The Prime Minister returns to Delhi from Seoul on May 19.