As Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday — for the ninth time in the last two and half years — the visiting Chinese leader is likely to impress upon India the need to break the diplomatic impasse with Pakistan.
Xi arrives at 1.10 pm Saturday and is scheduled to meet Modi at 5.40 pm. Sources said that Pakistan has reached out to China through diplomatic and political channels so that Xi can push for the resumption of engagement at a time when the dialogue process has frozen, apart from asking India to maintain “restraint” along the Line of Control (LoC).
Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit met new Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui even before he had presented his credentials this week. Luo had also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval last week and is understood to have discussed some of the talking points for the Xi-Modi bilateral meeting.
Sources said that Xi’s rationale will be based on the example of the India-China border. “While the India-China border is undemarcated but there is hardly any violence and bullets have rarely been fired, whereas the India-Pakistan LoC is demarcated but it regularly witnesses violence,” a source told The Indian Express.
Modi, however, will not let the argument go unchallenged “if it is raised by the Chinese”, a source said. “It is India’s response to provocation from Pakistan. We want peace but cannot tolerate Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism,” an Indian government source said on the expected response of the Prime Minister.
The PM will also ask China, its “good” and “all-weather friend,” to rein in terror groups, a source said, and will underline that if India and the region have to develop and the Asian century is to see light, Beijing must impress upon Islamabad to mend its ways.
In the conversation, Delhi will also try to impress upon the Chinese leader that even their projects in the China Pak Economic Corridor may be in jeopardy if terrorism continues in Pakistan and terrorists roam freely there. Modi is, most likely, going to bring in Masood Azhar, too. His UN listing as an international terrorist, Modi will argue, is not just based on “allegations or hearsay”. Sources said that UK had put a technical hold but they lifted it after realising the danger of looking the other way. “Now US, France are also supporting the case,” a source said.
New Delhi is prepared to share more evidence including his recent writings in jehadi magazines. The Indian Express had reported yesterday that Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar had written in his weekly magazine that if Pakistan shows a “little courage…the problem of Kashmir, as well as the dispute over water, can be resolved once and for all right now. If nothing else, the government simply has to open the path for the mujahideen.”
Sources said that Delhi will also deny the recent comment by the Chinese about using terrorism for “political purposes” — since terrorism is a “livelihood issue” for India and has claimed lives of innocent Indians as well as its soldiers.
For the Chinese, however, the priority is to get good news and vibes in the meeting and they would not like to dwell much on these thorny issues — which can be resolved at the official level or the working levels. That was the reason behind Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Foreign minister Wang Yi’s visits before Xi’s visit.
Sources said that Beijing is keen to explore a “bilateral trading arrangement” so that there are no trade barriers, tariff or non-tariff. Chinese diplomats said that they are carefully watching the anti-China sentiment and calls on social media for boycott of Chinese goods.
China would also want more people-to-people contacts, an euphemism for a more liberal visa arrangement for Chinese businessmen and tourists, apart from skilled professionals. The Indian security establishment, however, is in no hurry to relent, sources said.
On the issue of India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), sources said that China has not changed its position. “The Chinese leadership is likely to reiterate the criteria-based process and clubbing Indian application with Pakistan’s. That makes it impossible for the international community to accept them,” sources said.