China-India border dispute

China, India have ‘huge opportunities to cooperate’ despite recent quarrels

Chinese foreign minister does not rule out meeting between Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi at upcoming summit of emerging economies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 5:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 11:18pm

Huge opportunities for cooperation exist between China and India despite their recent territorial disputes, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, leaving the door open for talks between the nations’ leaders at an upcoming summit.

On Monday, the Asian giants ended a months-long military stand-off in Doklam, where they share a border with the tiny kingdom of Bhutan.

The resolution to “disengage” troops appeared to have been timed to prevent the most serious confrontation in decades between the nuclear-armed neighbours from overshadowing the BRICS summit of the world’s leading emerging economies, which gets under way on Sunday in the southeastern China city of Xiamen.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the meeting, along with the heads of state of Brazil, Russia and South Africa.

Indian Prime Minister Modi will visit China to attend BRICS summit, following end of tense border stand-off

Wang did not rule out a one-to-one meeting between Xi and Modi during the three-day event, saying such an arrangement would depend on “the willingness of both sides”.

Ren Xiao, from Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies, said Modi’s attendance at the summit and possible talks with Xi were indicative of the diplomatic efforts made by both China and India to mitigate the long-term effects of their recent conflict.

“My view is that the two countries will focus on the many areas available for cooperation, while the military confrontation is already a thing of the past,” he said.

Wang agreed, saying that while it was normal for the two nations to have differences, China and India, as drivers of economic growth within the BRICS bloc, should take the opportunity to find ways to cooperate.

“What’s important is that we put these problems in the appropriate place, and appropriately handle and control them in the spirit of mutual respect, and based on the consensus of both countries’ leaders,” he said. “There is huge potential for cooperation between China and India.”

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India was China’s seventh largest export market in 2016, selling US$16.9 billion of electrical and electronic equipment, and US$10.4 billion worth of nuclear reactors, boilers and machinery to its neighbour, according to figures from the United Nations.

India, however, has expressed concern at its US$51 billion-plus trade deficit with China, as well as Beijing’s increased activity in Pakistan, and its ports developments in Sri Lanka and Djibouti.

The stand-off in Doklam began in June when India dispatched troops to block a Chinese road-building project in an area claimed by both China and Bhutan. Beijing subsequently staged military drills in nearby Tibet and in the Indian Ocean in a move seen as a warning to New Delhi that it was ready to take tough action to protect its sovereignty.

India withdraws troops from disputed border zone, China says

Despite the agreement to disengage, both India and China said their troops would continue to patrol in the Doklam area as they did before the stand-off.

“We’re hoping that their side will learn lessons from this incident and prevent some of the things from happening again,” Wang said. “We hope that through the efforts of both sides we will maintain healthy and stable relations.”

The BRICS summit would focus on bolstering cooperation and forming wider partnership ties, he said.

It would also be attended by officials from other nations, including Thailand and Egypt, as “BRICS is not a closed club”, he said.