NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Wuhan, capital of the central Chinese province of Hubei, 27-28 April for an “informal” summit with president Xi Jinping is unusual for several reasons.
One, given the Chinese penchant for protocol and ‘atmospherics’, this informal summit, and that too barely a month before Modi visits China again for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, is unprecedented.
“This is not only unusual, but also a sign that Xi is a new kind of Chinese leader, one who is comfortable both in formal and informal situations, unlike his predecessors,” said an Indian analyst. “More importantly, it gives both sides the opportunity to air their views candidly, dispensing with the usual diplomatic jargon and small talk.”
Two, there will no agreements signed between the two nations, nor will there be the customary joint statement or Press conference post the summit. “This kind of one-on-one is not often seen in other countries. Relevant information will be released in a detailed and timely manner…,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou told journalists in Beijing, where Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were attending the foreign and defence ministers meetings of the SCO. Swaraj left for Mongolia soon afterwards, but is expected to join Modi in Wuhan later in the week.
Three, according to Kong, while “over the past few years they (Modi and Xi) met 10 times, visited each other’s capitals and home towns and met at multilateral occasions,” this time, “the two leaders will spend two days in Wuhan. In these two days, they will engage with each other on various forums. What I can tell you here is that they will spend a lot of time together one-on-one. “He also pledged that “the Chinese side will provide some unique arrangements. Some arrangements will go beyond even the expectations of the Indian side.”
Four, as an Indian analyst put it, despite the so called “informal” setting, the Chinese side could not avoid symbolism. In this case, Modi and Xi are likely to meet at the private Wuhan villa of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. “This is significant given that Mao had hosted US President Richard Nixon during his historic 1972 visit to China —brokered by Pakistan — at this villa. Not only was that the first US Presidential visit to the People’s Republic of China, it also cleared the air between the two nations which were not even talking to each other before that.”
And five, giving another reason for choosing Wuhan as the venue, Xinhua quoted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying: “Wuhan is the biggest city in central China with long history and has close cooperation with Indian states; Modi has not yet officially visited central China.”
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