PM Modi is in no mood to yield on border concerns with China

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The divergence between the Indian and Chinese read-out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief interaction with President Xi Jinping during the BRICS summit on August 23 clearly reveals that Beijing wants to push border issues to the background while projecting normalization of bilateral ties.

This divergence was also reflected in the separate statements issued by India and China after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with his counterpart Wang Yi at the BRICS NSA dialogue on July 24.

For the record, authoritative sources said that it was the Chinese side which had sought the meeting from India between PM Modi and President Xi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit but a formal meeting could not take place due to the packed schedule of PM Modi. Thus, the two leaders exchanged notes very briefly, say three to four mins, at the leadership lounge of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

It is quite evident from the read-out of the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing wants boundary issues including patrolling rights of Indian Army in Western and Eastern sector to be put on a back-burner with the resumption of trade and to-and-fro movement of businessmen. That China is keen on normalization is clear from the fact that last year, the bilateral trade deficit was in favour of China to the tune of over USD 100 billion. This year again, the bilateral trade in the first half is already showing a trade deficit of over USD 47 billion and overall figure will yet again touch USD 100 billion in favour of China.

Despite the barbs of Indian opposition parties over China to PM Modi, the latter is insistent that normalization of bilateral ties only can happen after full disengagement and de-escalation of troops takes place in Eastern Ladakh. India also wants that its patrolling rights in Depsang Bulge in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and in CNN junction in Demchok be restored as prior to May 2020 belligerence by the PLA in East Ladakh. While the grazing issue in Demchok is an age-old problem, the PLA built a huge watch tower across the LAC in the same area with irrigation ditches demarcating the unresolved border way back in 2010.

Fact is that Chinese are quite fed-up with PM Modi, EAM Jaishankar and NSA Doval raising the border issue every time they meet their Chinese counterparts as the latter feel that the same topic should not be raised before the paramount leader. “Chinese side does not want contentious issues to be raised by India before President Xi, who for them is leader of a superpower and beyond the border concerns….while PM Modi wants a clear cut written agreement that the sanctity of the 3488 km LAC is respected by China and that troops on both sides should go back to their barracks,” said a former foreign secretary.

The Indian concerns with China don’t stop at the boundary issue but on Chinese adversarial actions against India through its neighbours in South Asia, on multilateral platforms like UN, NSG and in the Indo-Pacific with the PLA Navy is an expansion mode. Contrary to what Chinese leadership thinks, the Indian leadership is in no mood to yield.

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