WILL WUHAN LEAD TO LASTING PEACE ON THE LAC?

If the unprecedented Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping conclave at Wuhan has made waves in the global arena, it is because it has been approached and organised/implemented differently compared to any previous Sino-Indian summits. While wish lists of both India and China on what all should happen or should not happen is long, some basic essentials that India considers most important are peace on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), fair trade ties, ruffle-free politico-diplomatic relations and good social, business, cultural and educational exchanges.

On the Wuhan meet, there is no doubt about the positive and serious intent. It is also just as well that the content was controlled, in that there were just a few official disclosures from officials. And what is also good news is that there were no reports of any untoward incident on the LAC, unlike during almost all earlier state visits or diplomatic events.

What has, not surprisingly, escaped public notice and in official circles taken for granted/not made much of, is that Doklam marked the completion of fifty years of bullet less border management. And while the over six weeks long Doklam stand-off also ended, there were reports of resumption of Chinese PLA’s construction/occupation related activities.

On March 24, 2018, ANI reported that India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, denied reports of Chinese military stepping up the infrastructure in the disputed area of Doklam and added that the status quo in the area did not change. On the issue of the standoff, he said that it happened because Beijing tried to alter the status-quo. However, on March 26, 2018, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Doklam belongs to China and India should have learned lessons from the stand-off last year. The Chinese republic also claimed that its activities in the area are within its sovereign rights and there is no such thing as changing status quo. Then came the “informal” summit of Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping in Wuhan, which was expected to stabilise the two nations’ relationship.

On April 26, 2018, China’s military spokesman, Col. Wu Qian, reportedly told the media in
Beijing, “It is the common expectation of both peoples to stabilise relations between the Chinese and Indian armed forces and maintain peace and tranquillity at the border areas.”

India’s Foreign Secretary, Vijay Keshav Gokhale, addressing media on the summit stated that four of the meetings were one-to-one meetings and that while there were no agreements for announcements, there were discussions between Messrs. Modi and Xi on bilateral issues of global importance, trade, bilateral issues and strategic military relations. He further stated that Mr. Modi discussed the importance of bilateral trade, and also ways to promote cultural, and people-topeople relations. Proposals included moving ahead on spirituality, terms on building ties in films, environment etc. Also discussed were sports and performances on the international level and how to strengthen tourism and holistic health between India and China.

Mr. Xi shared his experience on the preservation of Yangtze River, on the banks of which in Wuhan, the world was able to watch the two leaders interacting.

The fifty years of border management mentioned, the stand-off at Doklam and many other earlier instances of transgressions and incursions by Chinese PLA across the LAC very often led to grappling/wrestling by soldiers of bothnations, but fortunately all ended by dialogue at field commander to diplomatic level. It simply does not make any sense for two powerful and progressing nations to be involved in frequent dissent across their border and enhancement of the arms race.

It will be of great benefit to the large populations of both China and India, if the former sincerely shifts from its hegemonic tendency and focuses more on trade, technical cooperation and all other mentioned progressive pursuits. And last but certainly not the least and very important for the entire South Asian region, will be military cooperation between India and China to obliterate the spreading cancer of terrorism.

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