Modi meets Xi, seeks solution of border, trade imbalance issues

Fortaleza (Brazil)/ New Delhi : Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday met Chinese President Xi Jinping and called for a solution to the “boundary question” as the two countries sought to expand their economic relations and rectify the trade imbalance.

In his first meeting with Xi since becoming prime minister, Modi called for enhanced Chinese investment in India’s infrastructure as the two leaders engaged in a freewheeling discussion and focused on building personal rapport in the discussion that went beyond the scheduled time.

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China invited Modi to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in November, the first time India has been invited for the meet.

The meeting took place within hours of Modi and Xi arriving at Fortaleza in Brazil for the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – leaders’ summit being held July 15-16. Modi is also scheduled to have meetings with other leaders too.

Modi said if India and China could amicably resolve the boundary question, it would set an example for the world in peaceful conflict resolution. He also hoped that trade imbalance will be resolved and called for the two countries to work together against terrorism and extremism in the region.

Also underscored the importance of bilateral relations, Xi said: “When India and China meet, the whole world watches.”

“Both leaders went straight into their first meeting here, indicating the importance that both give to this relationship and to their discussions,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

The meeting, which was scheduled for about 30-40 minutes, lasted almost 80 minutes.

“The effort was to have a freewheeling discussion. The focus was on establishing a personal rapport. And I think that worked very well because both the leaders seemed to have prepared very well for this meeting,” Akbaruddin said.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders observed that India and China had enormous opportunities to forge mutually beneficial partnerships and serve as catalytic agents of Asian and global prosperity.

Both sides emphasised the need to find a solution to the boundary question, it said.

“The prime minister stressed the importance of strengthening mutual trust and confidence, and maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border.”

It said Xi accepted for consideration Modi’s suggestion for an additional route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, giving the difficult terrain of the existing route.

Xi also agreed that balance in trade was necessary for a sustainable economic relationship and noted that enhanced services exports from India to China could be one way to address the issue.

He also said that India should deepen its engagement with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Modi said India has ‘observer’ status in the SCO and was ready to accept additional responsibility, if asked to.

Modi earlier tweeted that he had a fruitful discussion with Xi. “Had a very fruitful meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. We discussed a wide range of issues,” he said.

Referring to Xi’s planned visit to India in September, he responded to an invitation to him, saying he looked forward to an early visit to China.

The Modi-Xi meeting was the fourth high-level interaction since the National Democratic Alliance government assumed power. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had visited India while Vice President Hamid Ansari and army chief Gen. Bikram Singh visited China.

Akbaruddin termed the meeting “substantive” as also “very cordial, very warm.”

“It was a meeting which augurs well for the future of India and China…It was good meeting, good talk,” he said.

Asked about invite for the APEC meeting, Akbaruddin said November was a busy month with SAARC and G20 meetings but said India views it as “an important invitation, a significant gesture” which will be given very serious consideration.

Responding to a query on the boundary question, he said: “In a first meeting, we cannot go beyond initial references.”

Asked about India’s concerns about Arunachal Pradesh, which China terms as “southern Tibet”, Akbaruddin said the boundary was never a general issue and there were clear specifics.

“When we mean the boundary, it means our concerns on that,” he said.