Modi’s Chao to China...
...Tour beyond Trade & Border Dispute

Cover Story

The first comment of the Indian prime minister was published around noon in Chinese: “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo.” He quickly gained thousands of followers and thousands more shared his message across the micro blogging site.

The Asian giants, India and China, will sit across the table to solve the long standing issues as the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting China in the latter half of the May, just six months after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited New Delhi. During Xi’s trip to India, both he and Modi indicated their seriousness about beginning talks in earnest on resolving the border dispute between the two countries. India and China share a 3,380-kilometer border.

Modi Hits Weibo, China’s Own Social Media

Prior to his visit, in an effort to touch a chord with the Chinese people, Modi made his debut on the social media platform Weibo amid welcoming comments by many Chinese users.

The first comment of the Indian prime minister was published around noon in Chinese: “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo.” He quickly gained thousands of followers and thousands more shared his message across the micro blogging site.

Many Chinese users, however, were quick to bring up the long-standing border dispute between the two nations. “Welcome to China, but you have to know that south Tibet belongs to China,” said one user, echoing the Chinese Government’s official stand. “You are very brave. Let’s discuss the South Tibet problem,” said another user.

While some users wanted to verify whether the account actually belonged to Modi, a few others advised him to ‘work hard on women’s rights’. Some were curious as to how Modi was writing in Chinese. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese government, that use layers of censorship on the internet known as the Great Firewall of China, allows all kinds of comments on Modi’s page to be published especially during his visit.

Interestingly, opening a Weibo account has allowed Modi to skirt the issue of internet censorship in China. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are among thousands of sites blocked in that part of the world.

Chinese Movement at LAC Always an Issue

While on the military front, the Chinese Army has given a guarded response in dispelling apprehensions of yet another military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) saying that it ‘strictly abides’ by agreements to take care of peace and stability on the border.

“Chinese border troops have all the time strictly abided by the agreements reached by the two governments and are dedicated to peace and stability alongside the border space,” the Defence Ministry Spokesman Geng Yansheng has said. He was replying to questions on apprehensions of standoffs on the LAC.

There are currently two major disputed territories: Aksai Chin, which China administers but India claims, and Arunachal Pradesh, which India administers as a state in the India Union but China claims.

It remains to be seen if this round of high-level border talks will yield any real progress or not. Though both Modi and Xi have amicably raised the border issue to the top of the India-China bilateral agenda, both governments continue to make moves that render a long-term resolution of the disputes untenable.

On the Indian side, Chinese border incursions remain a major irritant. The most serious incursion recently took place in April 2013, when a platoon of People’s Liberation Army set up a camp for nearly three weeks on the Indian side of LAC.

Agenda of the Visit

It is apparent that both sides are cautiously approaching negotiations. Still, a high-level dialogue can only be positive. The last major diplomatic agreement was the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), which former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed on his last official trip to China before leaving office. The BDCA was a nuts-and-bolts crisis management mechanism, intended to help both sides de-escalate tensions should a border incident take place.

India and China may sign a ‘scientific cooperation’ agreement. They have already agreed to start a maritime cooperation dialogue, as set out in the joint statement when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India in September, 2014.

What Modi and Xi are targeting with these negotiations is far more ambitious; a process to finalise the borders between Asia’s two largest rising powers.

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Author

Vinayak Dutt

Vinayak Dutt

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.

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