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India-China summit confirmed, with just two days to go

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host President Xi Jinping for an “informal summit” this week, India and China confirmed at short notice Wednesday as growing differences dog the two Asian giants’ historically prickly relations.

These include Chinese anger at India’s August move to split Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state into two and at Indian military exercises in Arunachal Pradesh state, part of which Beijing claims. China has also irked India with its recent diplomatic support for Pakistan.

China‘s foreign ministry had thundered in August after the Kashmir decision, which will see the Ladakh region of J&K become a separate Indian administrative territory, that India had “continued to undermine China‘s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law”.

Beijing claims parts of Buddhist-dominated Ladakh, perched on a steep Himalayan border with China‘s restive Xinjiang to its north and Tibet to the east. India too says that part of Ladakh that is under Chinese control is its.

Last month Indian and Chinese troops engaged in what Indian media called a “scuffle” in Ladakh on the banks of the Pangong Tso lake, two-thirds of which is controlled by China, and where soldiers threw stones at each other in August 2017.

That incident coincided with a much more serious face-off in the Doklam plateau in the Himalayas claimed by both China and Bhutan, when Chinese soldiers started building a road and India sent its forces to halt the process.

The Doklam face-off between the nuclear-armed Asian nations, who fought a war in 1962, lasted two months until both sides pulled back.

India recently upgraded its participation in the Quad — a grouping with the United States, Australia and Japan that Washington hopes will counter China in the Asia-Pacific region.

– Wuhan spirit –

Modi and Xi appeared to patch things up in April 2018 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and the new meeting is billed as a push to build on that gathering.

“Since the meeting between the leaders of the two countries last year, China-India relations have developed at a good pace. The two sides have steadily promoted cooperation in various fields and properly dealt with differences and sensitive issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday.

But India has also objected to Beijing‘s Belt and Road initiative, a vast global infrastructure programme that includes a major project through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a territory claimed by New Delhi.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars and numerous skirmishes over Kashmir, most recently in February with tit-for-tat air strikes, and New Delhi accuses Islamabad of backing an armed uprising in the Indian-controlled part of the Himalayan region.

China has given Islamabad diplomatic backing at the United Nations over Kashmir and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was welcomed with a guard of honour in Beijing on Tuesday at the start of a two-day visit, likely further irking New Delhi.

China sympathises and supports the situation faced by Pakistan on this issue. So, at present, the relationship between China and India has reached a very delicate point,” said Cheng Xiaohe at the Department of International Politics at Renmin University.

India and China, home to more than a third of humanity, also have differences over trade, with both wanting greater market access, even if they share a common adversary in US President Donald Trump.

Xi, 66, was expected to press Modi, 69, to allow Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to take part in 5G trials, something which Washington has been pressing New Delhi not to permit because of security concerns.

“Frankly, the optics surrounding this visit don’t look very promising at the moment,” Harsh Pant, an international relations professor with King’s College in London, told AFP. “If at all, the dynamic has become more conflictual.”

After India, Xi was due to make a state visit Nepal on Saturday and Sunday, the first by a Chinese president in more than two decades. India is also worried about losing influence to China there.

Key issues for the Modi-Xi summitq
Chennai, India (AFP) Oct 9, 2019 -
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China‘s President Xi Jinping will meet in the Indian city of Chennai from Friday in a bid to ease strained bilateral ties.

The leaders of the world’s two most populous nations will tackle “over-arching issues”, according to India’s announcement of the meeting. Here are key topics that the uneasy neighbours will find difficult to solve:

– Trade tussle

India has repeatedly demanded greater access to China‘s markets in recent years and pressure has grown because of the rising trade deficit of about $55 billion in Beijing‘s favour.

India’s pharmaceutical and software industries have in particular lobbied for a more open border.

India wants trade dealt directly with China, but their talks will have an impact on the free trade accord that Southeast Asia’s ASEAN is negotiating with major partners including Beijing and New Delhi.

Many in India see China‘s trade war with the United States and international scrutiny of its commercial practices as a window to raise trade concerns.

– Huawei battle

India is one of the key countries where Chinese telecoms giant Huawei wants to establish its 5G technology and Xi is expected to press Modi to give the green light in the face of US opposition because of its security concerns over Chinese-made equipment.

Huawei is already a major player in India’s smartphone market but the government has yet to make clear its stand on the company’s role in 5G.

Many Indian security analysts have raised concerns over allowing Chinese firms into strategically sensitive areas. But India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar last week denied that Huawei was a “political problem” however and said it would be dealt with “on merits”.

– Kashmir tensions

India-China tensions rose again after New Delhi’s move on August 5 to revoke the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim-majority Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan. China controls a part of Kashmir, which is in turned claimed by India. China‘s criticism of India’s constitutional move angered the Modi government.

The rivals have a long-pending border dispute in Ladakh, a strategic Buddhist-dominated region within Kashmir that is to be split from the Himalayan territory under the changes.

Both armies frequently cross into territory held by the other side around Ladakh, which has China‘s restive Xinjiang to its north and Tibet to the east.

India has been a vocal critic of China‘s Belt and Road global infrastructure programme that includes a key project through Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

– Border bust-ups

Besides Ladakh, India and China also have a decades old dispute over Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state bordering Tibet. They went to war over the territory in 1962. China still claims about 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of territory under New Delhi’s control.

The Buddhist and Hindu dominated region with dense forests and waterfalls is also home to many indigenous tribal communities.

In 2017, the neighbours had a high-altitude standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam region after the Indian army sent troops to stop China constructing a road there.

Doklam is part of a long-pending border tussle between China and tiny Bhutan, which counts India as one of its closest allies.

Modi and Xi’s last summit in Wuhan two years ago helped end the showdown. But Doklam remains tense.

India has held two significant military exercises close to its disputed borders with China in recent weeks.

– Diplomatic daggers drawn

The two Asian giants are also competing for influence across South Asia. Xi is expected to go to Nepal on Sunday after these talks but their strategic rivalry can be seen in projects and diplomatic pushes in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Myanmar and even the Maldives.

The two leaders discussed greater regional cooperation at their last summit but experts say little has changed since.

India’s worries about Chinese initiatives such as the Belt and Road project have bolstered its support for the Quad security dialogue with Japan, the United States and Australia that has been pushed as a democratic counter to China‘s more assertive stance.

India participated in its first ministerial-level meeting in New York last month.

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China’s Xi and India’s Modi to hold summit this week amid strains

New Delhi (AFP) Oct 7, 2019

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China‘s President Xi Jinping will hold an informal summit in southern India on Friday, officials said, amid strains in their relationship.

The meeting follows months of niggling between the world’s two most populous nations over trade, border disputes, and their respective diplomatic moves.

India’s foreign ministry has not formally announced the meeting in the Tamil Nadu town of Mamallapuram, known for its historic temples and architecture.

But it has … read more

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