New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping were seen shaking hands and engaging in a brief conversation on Thursday at the BRICS Summit in South Africa’s Johannesburg. Before issuing a joint statement of the 15th BRICS Summit by the leaders of the grouping, PM Modi and the Chinese Premier were seen walking and chatting before they took their designated seats. Post the briefing, they were also seen exchanging a handshake on the stage.
It, however, is not yet sure whether Modi and Xi will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit, which is the first in-person summit of the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. If the bilateral meeting takes place, it will be their first since the eastern border standoff began in May 2020.
Modi and Xi had a brief encounter at a dinner during the G-20 summit in Bali in November last year.
It is notable that the Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.
Earlier this month, talks among local commanders of the Indian Army and Chinese PLA for confidence-building measures in Eastern Ladakh’s Depsang and Demchok continued. India and China held the 19th round of Corps Commander-level talks on August 13 and 14 with a focus on resolving pending issues at the standoff areas of Depsang and Demchok.
A joint statement described the talks as “positive, constructive and in-depth” and that both sides agreed to resolve the remaining issues in an expeditious manner.
Days after the fresh round of high-level talks, the local commanders of the two militaries held a series of negotiations in two separate locations to resolve issues in Depsang Plains and Demchok.
The 19th round of Corps Commander-level dialogue took place at the Chushul-Moldo border point on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the region.
On July 24, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of a meeting of the BRICS in Johannesburg.
In its statement on the meeting, the MEA said Doval conveyed that the situation along the LAC in the western sector of the India-China boundary since 2020 had “eroded strategic trust” and the public and political basis of the relationship.
It said the NSA emphasised the importance of continuing efforts to fully resolve the situation and restore peace and tranquility in the border areas so as to remove impediments to normalcy in bilateral ties.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also held talks with Wang on the sidelines of a meeting of the East Asia Summit in Jakarta last month.
India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong Lake area. The ties between the two countries nosedived following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in 2021 on the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake and in the Gogra area.
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