NEW DELHI: India and China have instructed their armies to tone down the rhetoric along the disputed border to avoid another Doklam type incident, in which the two sides faced off for over two months last year.
This decision was taken during the second day of “informal” talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping in Wuhan on Saturday. The two leaders also agreed to set up a joint economic project in Afghanistan, which is strategically important to both nations.
Briefing the media in Wuhan, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said Prime Minister Modi and President Xi “issued strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs”.
As for Afghanistan, the details would be announced once the two sides decided on the project. While the two leaders recognised the common threat posed by terrorism, specific issues like China’s opposition to Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar being labeled a terrorist by the UN — and to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — were not brought up.
“The decision to initiate a join project in Afghanistan will set off alarms in Pakistan,” said a former diplomat who has served in China. “On the border, Modi was keen to ensure another Doklam-type incident did not recur, particularly given that he faces a general election in a few months.”
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said Beijing would “not be too hard” with New Delhi on supporting the Belt and Road Initiative as there’s “no fundamental difference between China and India” on supporting inter-connectivity.