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From Sabarmati to Astana: The Road Travelled by Modi and Xi

The image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping sitting on a swing on the Sabarmati riverfront was indeed iconic.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:June 9, 2017, 6:26 AM IST
From Sabarmati to Astana: The Road Travelled by Modi and Xi
In this October 16, 2016 photo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping leave after a group picture during BRICS Summit in Goa. (Reuters)

New Delhi: The image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping sitting on a swing on the Sabarmati riverfront was indeed iconic.

Those were early days of the Modi government. The new regime was trying hard to project the PM as a statesman. A man who, like the senior from his party and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, could use soft diplomacy to turn around relations between rivals. But from September 2014 to June 2017, much has changed.

The Sabarmati to Astana journey between Modi and Xi has been a long and rather bumpy ride. The two leaders will meet on Friday morning for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Kazakhstan. This comes in the backdrop of India boycotting the Belt Road Initiative or the One Belt One Road (OBOR) summit held in Beijing last month. India had categorically said, "No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity" with reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. But China brushed aside India's concern. At the address at OBOR summit, Xi said, "China has no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability."

ALSO READ | Prime Minister Narendra Modi Greeted Nawaz Sharif in Astana: Sources

But this is the latest in a series of moves that has upset India. In the past two years, China has also blocked India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. While most other countries seemed to have come around at the plenary in Seoul, Beijing stuck to its stand that India must sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) first. It also kept pushing for its ‘all-weather friend’ Pakistan to be considered at par with India despite the fact that the world is, as official sources said, "well aware of the proliferation background of Pakistan" —a clear reference to the AQ Khan episode.

Beijing also put a technical hold on India's bid to get Masood Azhar declared a terrorist by the United Nation. This would have ensured freezing of his assets and choking of terror financing for his activities.

While India suffered these major setbacks, China also raised the red flag over former US ambassador Richard Verma's visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said, "We urge the US to stop getting involved in the China-India territorial dispute and do more to benefit this regions peace and tranquility." India made it clear that Arunachal being an integral part of India, a diplomat accredited to the country had all the rights to visit it. India persisted with the same argument when the Dalai Lama visited Tawang earlier this year.

With more than one stick points between the two Asian giants, the Xi-Modi meeting gains even more significance. Can the dragon be tamed, that remains the question.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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