External Affairs

Strengthened Defence Personnel Contact Will Ensure Doklam Doesn’t Recur, Say Modi, Xi

“One of the important points that was made during the meeting was that peace and tranquillity in the border areas was a prerequisite for further development of our relationship,” the Indian foreign secretary said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the president of the People'’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on Tuesday. Credit: PTI/PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the president of the People’’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on Tuesday. Credit: PTI/PIB

New Delhi: A week after Chinese and Indian soldiers came out of their stand-off in Bhutan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that defence personnel contacts should be strengthened to ensure that Doklam-like situations do not recur.

The meeting with Xi was Modi’s last appointment in Xiamen before he left for his state visit in Myanmar.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, he said that the discussions, which lasted over an hour, were “very constructive” and “forward looking”. The first half an hour was devoted to BRICS issues, while the rest touched upon bilateral matters.

This was their first face-to-face meeting since both sides announced on August 28 that the Doklam stand-off had ended. While India had officially said that border troops from both sides had “dis-engaged”, China had publicly announced that Indian troops had backed away. However, on verification, both sides are now at the pre-June 16 position, which effectively means that China has stopped its road construction activities in Doklam region’s Dolam plateau for now.

Modi and Xi had actually also met on the sidelines of G-20 summit in Hamburg on July 7, when the stand-off had already become public fodder.

When asked whether Doklam was discussed on Tuesday, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said, “Both of us know happened. This was not a backward-looking conversation. This was a forward-looking conversation”.

He noted that the “sense” of the discussion was to take bilateral ties forward, but with also an eye to keep the border calm.

“One of the important points that was made during the meeting was that peace and tranquillity in the border areas was a prerequisite for further development of our relationship. And that there should be more effort made to further enhance and strengthen the level of mutual trust between the two sides,” said Jaishankar.

While a certain friction was natural among “neighbours and large powers”, the area of “difference” had to be handled with “mutual respect” and efforts should be made to find “common ground,” he added.

“And, specifically with respect defence, that the personnel involved in defence and security must maintain strong contacts and cooperation and ensure that the sort of situation that happened recently not recur,” said Jaishankar.

He noted that India brought up the conclusions of their meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan on June 9, when “both agreed that we won’t let differences become disputes and at a time that world was changing, we would ensure that India, China relations were a factor of stability”.

The brief report by the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, said that President Xi said that “healthy and stable relations between China and India are in line with the fundamental interests of their people”.

Further, Xinhua quoted the Chinese leader as saying that China was “willing to work with India on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which were put forward by both countries, to improve political mutual trust, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, and push Sino-Indian ties along a right track”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang added that Xi noted that both countries “should see each other as development opportunities, not threats”.

“The two sides should respect each other, seek common ground while reserving differences and safeguard the peace and tranquility of the border areas,” Geng said, quoting Xi.

Jaishankar added that there were “detailed discussions” on a mechanism which could help both countries to move forward on an “onward trajectory”.

“An inter-governmental mechanism, like we have a joint economic group, we have defence and security group, we have a strategic group as well as groups like BRICS and AIIB. These are groups and mechanism which can be used to build a relationship,” he explained.

Jaishankar added that issues related to terrorism were not discussed in the India-China bilateral meeting.