Speculation rife over meeting with China’s Xi after Modi reaches South Africa for BRICS summit
On Monday (21), Indian foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said Modi’s schedule was “still being developed” after he was asked about the possibility of a meeting between Modi and Xi.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi acknowledges a traditional welcome extended to him by local tribal dancers on his arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, on a three-day visit to attend the 15th BRICS summit. To his right is South African deputy president Paul Mashatile. (ANI Photo)
INDIAN prime minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (22) reached Johannesburg in South Africa to participate in the BRICS summit that kicked off the same day. Speculation was rife whether the Indian leader will have a bilateral meeting with Xi Jinping, the president of China, which is also a member of the grouping but has a strained relationship with India over border conflicts.
The 15th edition of the BRICS summit is the first in-person event to be held after 2019 as the events were held virtually over the last three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On landing in Johannesburg, Modi said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, “Landed in Johannesburg a short while ago. Looking forward to the various deliberations and meetings with world leaders during the BRICS Summit over the next few days.”
He was seen meeting and greeting officials who welcomed him at the airport besides applauding local tribal dancers who performed before him and other officials.
He also met the local Indian diaspora who gave him a warm welcome.
On Monday (21), Indian foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said in New Delhi Modi’s schedule was “still being developed” after he was asked about the possibility of a meeting between Modi and Xi.
“We have a positive intent and an open mind when it comes to BRICS expansion,” the diplomat said.
Modi said at the time of departing for the BRICS summit that it would provide a useful opportunity for its members to “identify future areas of cooperation”.
“We value that BRICS has become a platform for discussing and deliberating on issues of concern for the entire Global South,” he said, according to a press release issued by the prime minister’s office.
If the bilateral meeting takes place, it will be their first since the eastern border standoff began in May 2020.
Modi and Xi had a brief encounter at a dinner during the G20 summit in Bali in Indonesia last November.
Last month, Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a BRICS meeting in Johannesburg. There, Doval stressed on the importance of continuing efforts to fully resolve the situation and restore peace and tranquility in the border areas between the two Asian neighbours.
Ties between the two nuclear-armed neigbours worsened following a fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between them in a long time.
While BRICS, which represents 40 per cent of the world’s population across three continents and their member states’ economies at different levels of growth, share a common desire for a global order suiting their interests and growing clout, the sour ties between India and China raise a concern.