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SECOND INDIA-CHINA INFORMAL SUMMIT: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Written by Talent KAS

Related Topics: Bilateral Summits, International Relations

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  • PM of India Shri Narendra Modi and President of the People’s Republic of China Mr Xi Jinping held their Second Informal Summit in Mamallapuram, a coastal town near Chennai, on October 11-12, 2019.
  • The first informal summit between them was held in Wuhan in China in April 2018, where they exchanged views on issues of global and bilateral significance.

Key Takeaways of the Summit

Trade

  • China is one of India’s largest trading partners.
  • A Reuters report stated that the bilateral trade between the two nations reached $95.54 billion in 2018, but the trade deficit was at $53 billion in China’s favour.
  • During this summit, Modi and Xi reinforced their commitment to improve trade relations.
  • The High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue mechanism will look into achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations.
  • It will also seek to address the trade deficit and issues related to investment.
  • It seeks to build a ‘manufacturing partnership’ between India and China.
  • This assurance from China comes at a time when there is a lot of opposition to India joining the China-backed RCEP deal.

Working together on International Issues

  • China has blocked India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and has been slow to accept reforms in the United Nations.
  • It seems unlikely that China will allow any major reform or change that doesn’t serve its national interest, although India must push for it.
  • India and China have many similar interests at the World Trade Organisation and at the UN.
  • Both nations have been under stress because of US President Donald Trump’s trade war and due to the rising tensions in West Asia.
  • Modi and Xi agreed that there must be a rules-based and inclusive international order.
  • They agreed that there must be reforms that reflect the new realities of the 21st century.
  • They also agreed that rules-based multilateral trading systems must be supported and strengthened.
  • The nations also reinforced their commitment to work together for open and inclusive trade arrangements that will benefit all countries.
  • They also made a commitment to address global developmental challenges, including climate change and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

People to People Contact

  • The focus on tourism and contact among the people of both nations will not only boost trade, but it will help in building trust between them.
  • Establishing such confidence-building measures can help integrating the people by removing stereotypes.
  • To celebrate the 70th year of diplomatic relations between the two nations, the year 2020 will be designated as Year of India-China Cultural and People to People Exchanges.
  • To celebrate the civilisational ties between the nations, the two leaders have decided to form a ‘Sister-state relationship’ between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province.

Chennai Connect

  • The ‘Chennai connect’ will set the tone for future discussions.
  • The two leaders have agreed to set up a new mechanism to have better cooperation in trade and defence.
  • They also made a commitment to manage differences in such a way that they would “not allow differences on any issue to become disputes
  • It also reinforced that ‘informal meet’ concept works in the India-China context.
  • The Wuhan spirit has given India – China relations, new momentum and trust.
  • The Chennai vision will begin a new age in relations between the two countries

Jammu and Kashmir Issue

  • In August 2019, India scrapped Article 370, which gave special status to the state.
  • This irked China and they lent their support to their “all-weather friend” Pakistan, when the latter raised this in multiple international forums, including the UNSC.
  • India had responded to them saying that the matter was an internal one and the move was done to improve the lives of the people of the state, and most nations sided with India on this matter.
  • Many believed that India should raise this matter with China, but it was not even a part of the discussion.
  • India was firm on its viewpoint, and didn’t allow another nation to talk about the nation’s internal affairs.
  • The lack of Kashmir in the talks shows that both nations are willing to look beyond, at least at the leadership level.

What is an Informal Summit?

  • Informal Summits act as supplementary exchanges to annual Summits and other formal exchanges such as the G20 Summit, EU-India Summit and the BRICS Summit among others.
  • It allow for “direct, free and candid exchange of views” between countries, which may not be possible to do through formal bilateral and multilateral meetings that are agenda driven, where specific issues are discussed, and outcomes are more concretely defined.

Significance of Informal Summits

  • Informal Summits allow discussion on wide-ranging issues and they are not particularly purpose-specific.
  • They are sometimes considered to play bigger roles in diplomatic dialogue than formal exchanges because they tend to be more in-depth, and relatively flexible in intent and the scope of discussion.
  • In April 2018, the first informal summit took place in Wuhan in the wake of the Doklam crisis.
  • The present summit is being held in the midst of China reacting strongly to the Indian government’s decision on Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • China is not the only country with which India has had an Informal Summit.
  • In May 2018, Modi met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for their first Informal Summit in Russia’s Sochi to discuss international matters in a “broad and long-term perspective”.
  • In June 2019, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, Russia, India and China convened together for the “Russia-India-China (RIC) Informal Summit” where they discussed issues related to the economic, security and political situation of the world.

Why Mamallapuram was chosen for the summit?

  • If Wuhan was picked by President Xi Jinping as the venue in first informal summit to demonstrate China’s economic resilience and might, Mamallapuram is symbolic of India’s ‘soft power’.
  • Mamallapuram, an important town of the erstwhile Pallava dynasty that ruled this part of south India from 275 CE to 897 CE, is renowned for its architecture, widely admired across the world.
  • Mamallapuram is also known as Seven Pagodas or Mahabalipuram.
  • The town’s religious centre was founded by a 7th-century Hindu Pallava King—Narasimhavarman, also known as Mamalla—for whom the town was named.
  • The town has a collection of 7th and 8th century religious monuments that has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Way Forward

  • The Informal Summit format is a contribution of India and China to the lexicon of International diplomatic practice.
  • It provides a supple and non-formal method for leaders of two large countries with a complex relationship to interact with each other directly and ensure that bilateral ties remain forward leaning.
  • The second informal summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping is advancement over Wuhan and has established a bilateral grid that suits the security and economic strategy of India.
[Source: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

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