The world’s two most populous countries seem to want to get back on good terms.
Why you should care about the thing between China and India
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping will meet on Friday for an unofficial summit.
The announcement on Sunday took analysts by surprise because the two leaders had met just seven months ago, and were already scheduled to meet in June at an annual meeting of Eurasian states.
“In the recent past, their relationship has been tilting more towards conflict than towards cooperation. This meeting is an attempt to reset that,” Sriparna Pathak, a political scientist at Nowgong College in India, told Inkstone.
For the US, an India-China rapprochement would be a rejection of claims that the US is using its strengthening alliance with India to contain China’s rise, Geeta Kochhar, a researcher of China’s foreign relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Inkstone.
China and India together account for more than one-third of humanity on earth and make up a big chunk of the global economy.
A warming of relations between two countries will have far-reaching consequences, not least by improving stability in the region.
Modi and Xi’s meeting this week will be held on Friday and Saturday in Wuhan, the capital of the central Chinese province of Hubei.
The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi called Modi’s coming visit – his fourth to China since he took power in 2014 – a “new milestone” in China-India relations. He vowed to boost cooperation and settle disputes.
Last year, India and China came near the brink of conflict during more than two months of standoff over a slice of contested border territory, recalling the 1962 Sino-Indian war that resulted in thousands of casualties.
Kochhar, of Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the meeting this week would allow Xi and Modi to have a “heart-to-heart” talk to hash out their differences, even though they were unlikely to go away overnight.
On top of the unresolved border dispute, the two leaders will be hard-pressed to agree on a few other matters, such as China’s growing influence in India’s backyard of South Asia.
“It is clear that India has a major problem with its sovereignty being violated by the CPEC,” said Pathak of Nowgong College, referring to China–Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The project is a crucial part of China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, and involves infrastructure works in territory disputed between India and Pakistan.
“China is adamant on going ahead,” said Pathak.
The Dalai Lama’s visit last April to the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own, also soured ties between the two countries.
Beijing, which considers the Nobel Peace laureate a separatist, condemned India’s hosting of the Tibetan spiritual leader as a provocation.
Their differences aside, China and India have expressed a common interest in trade amid uncertainty from Washington.
“Both are deeply concerned about the impact Trump’s policies may have on international trade,” Carla Freeman, a China expert at Johns Hopkins University, told Inkstone.
As trade tensions have escalated over the past two months between China and the US, India has sided with China in criticizing protectionist measures from the West.
Rajeev Kumar, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, an Indian government think tank, said this month that a global economic recovery has been marred by "protectionist noises."
At a meeting with Chinese economic officials on Apr 14, Kumar offered to export soybean and other agricultural products to China as a substitute for US exports.