Amid Sikkim border stand-off, Modi and Xi Jinping meet in Hamburg

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Hamburg : In the midst of the India-China standoff near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction, and contrary to expectations, PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping didn’t just exchange greetings but also managed a conversation on “a range of issues” on the sidelines of the G20 summit+ in Hamburg.

The discussion is significant as it came a day after a top Chinese official was quoted to have said that the “atmosphere” was “not right” for a bilateral meeting+ between Modi and Xi. China, in fact, has officially said no meaningful dialogue is possible until Indian forces withdraw from Doklam plateau in Bhutan which Beijing has claimed.

Indian government sources did not confirm whether the two leaders discussed the military impasse in the remote terrain but the conversation is being seen in the context of tensions resulting from the faceoff.

While both sides had earlier ruled out a formal bilateral meeting, there was always a chance that the leaders could have a pull aside. Indian government sources didn’t state if the confrontation over Chinese attempts to build a road in an area seen as Bhutanese territory+ figured in the talks. According to reports from Hamburg, the conversation lasted for about 5-7 minutes.

The MEA spokesperson also tweeted a photograph of Modi and Xi shaking hands. Though it is unclear how soon the situation will be resolved, the brief interaction may set the stage for enhanced diplomacy. The Indian military intervention is based on the firm conviction that China’s attempts to realign the ground situation must be stalled to prevent the PLA from gaining an advantage over Indian defences at the tri-junction.

Modi seemed to reach out to Xi at the informal BRICS leaders’ meeting as he appreciated momentum in BRICS under the chairmanship of Xi and extended full cooperation and best wishes for the BRICS Xiamen Summit.

Concluding the meeting immediately after the PM’s remarks, Xi appreciated, according to Indian officials, India’s strong resolve against terrorism and the momentum in BRICS introduced under India’s chairmanship and through the outcomes of the Goa Summit in 2016. “He also appreciated India’s success in economic and social development and wished India even bigger success,” said a press release issued by the government.

China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Doklam area near the Bhutan tri-junction for the past three weeks after a Chinese army construction party attempted to build a road through the plateau.

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