India-China ‘reset’ for less Pak-centric ties

The Asian Age.  | Sridhar Kumaraswami

India, All India

The dance of the dragon and the elephant together ‘is the only correct choice for the two countries, says Chinese envoy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Fisherman’s Cove in Kovalam, near Mamallapuram, on Saturday. (Photo; PTI)

Chennai: India and China have realised they must look at their bilateral relationship beyond the prism of Pakistan despite glaring differences in their national positions on several issues, sources told this newspaper. The sources said Chinese President Xi Jinping bringing up the issue — of Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s recent visit to Beijing — at the second informal summit at Mamallapuram with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “perhaps to clear the air”, though the Kashmir issue, as reported already, was “neither raised nor discussed”. The inevitability of engagement to avoid border flareups at a time when both nations are trying to strengthen trade ties and boost their economies was perhaps best reflected in Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong’s tweet on Sunday, when he referred to his President Xi Jinping’s statement that the dance of the dragon and the elephant together “is the only correct choice for the two countries”.

Though it seemed intriguing why the Chinese leader referred to the Pakistan PM’s visit at all in his talks with Mr Modi, it is being seen in the context of a virtual war of words between India and China just before the summit. China and Pakistan had referred to the Kashmir issue in a joint press statement in Beijing before the summit but India swiftly hit back, virtually telling China not to interfere in its internal affairs.

For a while it seemed things were not looking too good before the summit, but President Xi’s visit, despite its delayed announcement, and the successful holding of the Mamallapuram summit showed both nations have realised that the benefits of engagement far outweigh the differences in their worldview on many regional and global issues.

As foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale succinctly put it earlier on Saturday: “Some of the issues (where there are differences) are issues which predate these two leaders, these are historical issues. The way the relationship has been managed by our leadership has ensured that there is no fundamental disruption.”

In tweets on Sunday, Chinese envoy Sun Weidong too said: “#Chinese President #XiJinping said dragon & elephant dance together is the only correct choice for two countries, #China & #India should help each other to accomplish their respective goals, ‘brighten up’ each other to realise great rejuvenation of our two great civilisations.”

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He added: “#Chinese President #XiJinping & #Indian Prime Minister #Modi had an in-depth exchange of views on overall, long-term & strategic international & regional issues in a friendly atmosphere and agreed to strengthen the closer development partnership between the two countries.”