From September 16th to 18th, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. The summit meeting between the leaders of the two most populous nations in the world have produced mixed results, with trade and economic deals and border disputes on the table.
The meeting took place while soldiers from both sides faced off along the disputed border in the Ladakh region, between Tibet and northeastern India. India had accused China for territorial incursions on the Ladakh plateau as Prime Minister Modi emphasized the importance of settling the border disputes. According to Indian media, the most recent round of border tension stemmed from the Chinese troops’ attempt to construct a temporary road into Indian claimed territory in the disputed Ladakh region last week.
While actual fighting has not broken off, the latest incident forced Mr. Modi to put the border issue at the top of his agenda and to try to pressure his Chinese counterpart to respond. Mr. Xi acknowledged the urgency of the issue by guaranteeing that China is “committed to working with India to maintain peace and tranquility on the border.” A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman later said that after timely, effective communication, the relevant situation has already been appropriately bought under control.
The border dispute dates back to skirmishes between Tibetans, Qing Chinese forces and the Sikh Confederacy in 1842. Several border transgressions have occurred over the years, and diplomats from both sides have been trying to play down the seriousness, but both sides have not yet agreed upon a mutually satisfactory border solution. Another area of dispute between the two states is in the Arunachal Pradesh region nestled between Bhutan, Tibet, and India.
Amid the heightened border disputes, China and India was still able to sign several landmark deals during the three-day meeting. China agreed to invest US$20 billion in India through a five-year trade plan aiming to deflate India’s large trade deficit with China. In addition, China agreed to help redevelop India’s aging railway system and railway stations, set up a Railway University in India, and train Indian Railway personnel. Two industrial parks will also be set up in Gujarat and Pune to focus on increasing power equipment and automobile component manufacturing. Mr. Modi also announced plans to establish civil nuclear energy cooperation with China.
While trade between the two sides remains optimistic, Mr. Modi made it clear that India’s patience with the unsettled border problem had worn thin and that results of all the deals would still depend on a long-waited territorial resolution.
“The prime minister sent a very strong signal that the Chinese have to agree to a fixed line of actual control before we start doing serious business with them,” said Mohan Guruswamy, a military analyst with the Observer Research Foundation, in an interview with the New York Times.
Earlier this month, Mr. Modi reached similar agreements with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on trade, security and nuclear energy. During his five-day visit to Japan, Mr. Modi reached consensus with Mr. Abe on importing defense technology and equipment from Japan, and holding regular joint maritime exercises. During an interview, Mr. Modi suggests that certain countries’ aggressive expansionist ways to “encroach upon the seas and territories of others” pushes him to strengthen ties with other players in Asia. Meanwhile, the forming and launch of the New Development Bank (NDB) led by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa is expected to help India and China develop further ties in the coming years.