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7 Jul 2017

Sikkim standoff: Modi, Xi unlikely to meet at G20 summit due to border row

India
PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping leave after a group picture during BRICS Summit in Goa.
(Reuters File Photo)
Sutirtho Patranobis and Shishir Gupta, HT, 7 July 2017: China on Thursday said the atmosphere was “not right” for a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, prompting New Delhi to say that such a meeting hadn’t been planned.

With the standoff over the construction of a road by Chinese troops in Donglang or Doklam area into its third week, the Chinese foreign ministry said recent developments had “damaged” the political foundation of bilateral ties.

Chinese officials also said the “atmosphere is not right” for a meeting between Modi and Xi on the margins of the G20 Summit beginning on Friday.

India’s position is that since there was no plan for a Modi-Xi meeting on the sidelines of the summit, the question of whether the atmosphere is or isn’t right is entirely moot.

“But we did not ask for any meeting, so where is the question of the atmosphere being conducive or not,” an Indian official, who is accompanying Modi on his visit to Israel, told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.

The Indian side also said the two countries were likely to allow their armies to resolve the standoff in Donglang.

Modi and Xi could cross paths at a meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) on the sidelines of the two-day G-20 Summit, Indian officials said. The two leaders had a positive meeting last month on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Astana, they said.

Over the weekend, Chinese deputy foreign minister Li Baodong had told reporters that Modi and Xi were expected to meet as part of the informal talks among BRICS leaders.

“According to the usual practice, BRICS leaders will hold an informal meeting ahead of the G20 Summit in Hamburg,” Li said.

At a regular news briefing on Thursday, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said China hoped “India can immediately withdraw the border troops to the Indian side of the boundary to uphold the peace and tranquillity of the China and India border areas”.

The withdrawal of Indian troops “is the pre-condition for any meaningful peace talks between the two sides”, he said.

Geng was responding to a question about a possible Modi-Xi meeting in Hamburg. Information on such a meeting, he said, will be “released in a timely manner”.

China has accused Indian troops of trespassing into Doklam, which the Chinese refer to as Donglang, a disputed territory claimed by Bhutan.

“This endangers China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and damaged the political foundations of bilateral relations between China and India,” Geng said.

China and its state-run media have been aggressive over the border impasse, even threatening war.

The state-run Global Times went a step further on Thursday, calling of Sikkim’s “independence” and separation from India. In an editorial, the nationalistic tabloid suggested Beijing should rally the world for abolishing “unfair treaties” that New Delhi has allegedly forced Bhutan to sign.


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