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Modi, Xi issue ‘strategic guidance’ to militaries to build trust on border affairs

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping along the East Lake, in Wuhan, China.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The reference is more relevant to China where PLA is directly under the Xi’s control
  • Referring to Doklam, India pointed out that the existing “tri-junction boundary points” between India and China and any third party will be “finalised in consultation with the countries concerned”

WUHAN: In a strong commitment to avoid future Doklams and reduce border tensions, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued “strategic guidance” to their militaries to build trust and enhance “predictability and effectiveness” in managing border affairs.

“The two leaders underscored the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in all areas of the India-China border region in the larger interest of the overall development of bilateral relations,” the Indian statement on the Modi-Xi informal summit said.

In a detailed paragraph devoted to the border dispute and military frictions, the statement said the leaders urged the special representatives of India and China working on the “boundary question” to intensify efforts to seek a “fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable” settlement.
As had been agreed upon, specific issues were not the focus of the two-day summit that agreed on the need for “proper management” of the relationship, but Xi’s preparedness to acknowledge a direction to the Chinese military is significant concession as it had been speculated that the 73-day Doklam face-off was aggravated by the hawkish actions of a section of the People’s Liberation Army.

The reference to the leaders directing their militaries is more relevant to China where PLA is directly under the party and the president’s control with Xi being chairman of the military commission.

In a commentary after Doklam, PLA Major General Qiao Liang criticised hawkish voices that had called for action against Indian troops. “If they had a clear understanding of China’s strategic positioning,” he said, they would see the settlement as one of the best possible results. “Only doing the right thing at the right time is correct,” he added.

The Indian statement on Saturday said, “The two leaders further directed their militaries to earnestly implement various confidence-building measures agreed upon between the two sides, including the principle of mutual and equal security, and strengthen existing institutional arrangements and information-sharing mechanisms to prevent incidents in border regions.”

Though the Doklam stand-off took place in Bhutanese territory disputed by China, it was an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in violation of the understanding reached between India and China. India pointed out that the existing “tri-junction boundary points” between India and China and any third party will be “finalised in consultation with the countries concerned”.

The resolution of the Doklam flashpoint and the subsequent behind-the-scenes improvement in ties leading to the Wuhan summit were the result of productive communication between Modi and Xi. The Chinese leader’s ability to deliver on precise timelines for the de-escalation at Doklam improved the trust quotient and the two sides moved towards the “strategic communication” they have agreed to establish during the talks at Wuhan.

The move to build a road that would give the Chinese military a vantage point over the “chicken neck” area that links mainland India to its northeast ahead of a crucial party congress where he was set to consolidate his power put Xi in a spot as well as the threat that Modi may not turn up at the Brics meet at Xiamen. As chairman of the military commission, Xi has, from time to time, clearly emphasised that all senior PLA officers will follow the CPC central committee and his orders that reflect the party’s stand and national interest.

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