ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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History Challenges Modi in China

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to break the ice and give a positive push to the perceptions about India-China relations on the street. The challenge remains whether he can build on this to address the long festering border dispute and whether his government can engage China in the major bilateral and multilateral partnerships which are developing. The opportunities are immense but can the leadership of both countries rise above history?

Writing this piece from Xian where Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his three-day China visit (14–16 May 2015) a week before I arrived, let me start with some remarks of common people and scholars I met in this major cultural city of China, its ancient capital which was called Chang An. A taxi driver was delighted to see us and said “President Xi Jinping was received by PM Modi last year in his home state and in return Xi received Modi in his own home province, Shaanxi. This is great and unique.” A lady who along with her one-year-old child drove for three hours on the main street of Xian to cover one kilometre because of the traffic restrictions on that day only mildly complained about it. She said Xian rarely received foreign leaders, so this attracted a lot of people to come out on the streets. Modi’s smart manners and frequent change of eye-catching attire impressed many like her. The fact of President Xi coming to Xian to receive the Indian leader has indeed spread a touching message of warmth in India–China relations among many of the common people in China.

It should be noted that by a smart management of dates in September 2014 Modi decided to receive Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad because on that day President Pranab Mukherjee was scheduled to return from a visit to Vietnam and could not receive the Chinese president. Modi turned that into a memorable event with a warm reception for the Chinese leader. The image of Modi and Xi in a swing on the Sabarmati riverfront would be remembered for long. However, the same occasion also saw confrontation between border guards of China and India in Ladakh’s Chumar.

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