Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held unofficial summit talks in Wuhan in China's Hubei province for two days in late April, and agreed to pursue peaceful solutions to their boundary dispute.
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The combined population of the two countries stands at some 2.6 billion. If their relations worsened, it would destabilize the entire region. Dialogue between the leaders leading to mutual trust should be welcomed.
The talks were hastily arranged. China appears to have attempted to strengthen its relations with India as a trade dispute simmers with the United States and the situation on the Korean Peninsula shifts dramatically. One goal for Modi was apparently to gauge the diplomatic strategy of Xi, who has solidified his authority in China. Prior to the next Indian general election next spring, Modi is reportedly hoping to stabilize relations between his country and China.
Xi and Modi held six rounds of talks in scenic areas, accompanied only by interpreters. The leaders did not settle any outstanding issues during the talks. Still, knowing each other's frank opinions will help lessen their distrust.
Chinese and Indian border security forces confronted each other in Doklam, a disputed area, for over two months last year, heightening tensions. At the latest talks, Xi and Modi agreed to nurture mutual trust and promote cooperation between Chinese and Indian forces. The move marks a first step toward improving bilateral ties.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders expressed their opposition to protectionism and support for the multilateral trade system, clearly with U.S. President Donald Trump's trade policies in mind.
The statement stopped short of mentioning the One Belt One Road Initiative, in which China hopes India will cooperate. This is apparently because India is still wary of China's budding presence on the Indian Ocean and its cooperation with Pakistan.
Still, it is of great significance that the two major Asian powers shared the awareness that the world situation is undergoing serious changes, and recognized each other as neighbors, friends and partners.
The Japanese and U.S. governments have set out the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy" to counter China's One Belt One Road Initiative. However, India is highly unlikely to respond positively if the strategy's main purpose is to confront China. Rather, the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and the One Belt One Road Initiative should complement each other to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the entire region.
Top-level diplomacy is continuing to respond to the Korean Peninsula situation. The advantage of summit talks is that they can enhance trust between leaders through direct dialogue, and aim to overcome differences that are difficult to overcome through working-level consultations. The international situation is changing rapidly. Japan should learn a lesson from the Chinese and Indian leaders' move to compromise to overcome differences.