Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit meet in Kazakhstan on June 8-9 could melt the ice that has set in India-China bilateral ties.
New Delhi (Sputnik) — The two leaders had a dream start in the summer of 2014 with Modi hosting President Xi, but since then ties between the two Asian giants have been marked more by disagreements even as trade and economic ties continue to grow.
This year’s SCO Summit will also see India and Pakistan’s formal admission into the China-dominated six-nation grouping. Till now China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were counted as full members of the central Asian grouping, while Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan had observer status.
Experts said India and Pakistan’s admission in the SCO could perhaps become the biggest highlight of this year’s summit.
“The key agenda item in Astana is going to be the twin admission of India and Pakistan, and this will be peddled as the SCO’s key achievement – something even Washington has been unable to accomplish. The addition of another 1.5 billion people would provide fresh excitement, for the SCO will now represent the voice of three billion people – half the world’s population,” P. Stobdan, India’s ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and noted security expert, told Sputnik. He is currently the Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.
The Modi-Xi meeting could take place on Friday on the sidelines of the summit, according to multiple Indian media reports. But, this won’t be the last time the two leaders will be part of multilateral meetings. Both of them will attend the Group of 20 developed and developing countries meet in Hamburg in July and thereafter, Modi is expected to visit China later this year for the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) meet.
The Modi-Xi meet comes close on the heels of India declining the Chinese invitation to attend the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing last month, China maintaining status quo on India’s membership issue in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and differences over Masood Azhar’s status as a terrorist.
Experts warned of over-optimism and situation dramatically improving between India and China on the ground.
“In practical terms, the scenario looks hazy for India. Let us not forget that the SCO was the key motivator behind China’s BRI concept and Beijing has now pledged additional billions for the initiative in Eurasia. No change is expected in Beijing’s stance on preventing Masood Azhar’s listing in the UN sanctions list. In fact, the ‘Shanghai spirit’ or its consensus decision based-making approach could further complicate India’s NSG membership case,” Stobdan added.
India has opposed the BRI — the China Pakistan Economic Corridor — cuts through Gilgit and Baltistan that India says is illegally occupied by Pakistan and hence, the BRI violates India’s sovereignty.
On China’s part, Beijing has been opposed India for allowing the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to travel to Arunachal Pradesh which Beijing considers southern Tibet. China considers the Tibetan monk a “dangerous terrorist” and questions New Delhi’s motives in sheltering him.
Despite volatility in political ties, bilateral trade and commerce between the two countries in 2016 amounted to $70.8 billion, PTI reported. Chinese investments into India till September 2016 stood at $4.75 billion, while Indian investments into China were $0.689 billion.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.