The signature hug -- showered usually on counterparts from other countries -- was definitely missing when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping. But, considering the two rising superpowers of Asia are locked in the biggest standoff since a war in 1962, the cordial meeting and hearty handshake exchanged by the leaders came as a surprise.
Both countries had denied the possibility of a ‘bilateral’ meeting in Hamburg.
Modi and Xi shook hands and greeted each other at an informal meeting of the BRICS nations on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg on Friday. The leaders also exchanged ‘words of praise’ in their speeches and discussed several issues.
“At BRICS leaders’ informal gathering hosted by China, PM @narendramodi and President Xi had a conversation on a range of issues,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted.
The Prime Minister was the lead speaker on the issue of ‘Fighting Terrorism’ at the Leaders’ Retreat, where he presented a 11-point action plan to deal with the menace. Naming Pakistan-based terror groups, Modi said some countries were using terror as a tool to achieve political objectives and pressed for “deterrent” action by members.
President Xi, in response, “appreciated India’s strong resolve against terrorism.”
Ironically, very same China was the only nation in the 15-member United Nations Security Council to block India’s bid to impose a UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, not once but several times. Azhar is accused of involvement in the 2016 Pathankot attack.
Xi, at the BRICS meeting, even called for “peaceful settlement” of regional disputes, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. However, the agency did not elaborate on what Xi meant by “regional disputes”. Modi, for his part, appreciated the momentum in BRICS under the chairmanship of President Xi.
At the BRICS summit, the Prime Minister urged heads of States to show their leadership in fighting terror. He also called on the G20 to collectively crackdown on ‘sponsors’ of terror.
Meanwhile, back in Beijing, statements over the standoff subdued on Friday. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang alleged ‘ulterior motives’ had prompted India to include the tri-junction with Bhutan in the Sikkim standoff. “The so-called tri-junction point as the name implies is a point instead of a line or area.”
Back in Hamburg, a handshake between two other leaders created bigger ripples in the international media -- US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
The first meeting came hours before the duo were due to hold a blockbuster bilateral that promises to be dissected for any sign of rapprochement.