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'Howdy Modi has larger, global context'

September 20, 2019 10:18 IST

'In the next three decades up to 2050 there will be three important players at the world level.'
'India, US and China will be playing a very important role globally as the largest economies in the world.'
'These three countries will have to interact with each other much more closely because what they do and what they decide will impact the entire world.'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the WHite House in 2016 

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi at the White House in June 2016. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

"We have a decisive government with a strong prime minister in India. Similarly, there is a strong leader in China. I believe this is a time for India and China to sit down and seriously try to resolve the boundary issue between us," Ambassador Gautam Bambawale, India's former envoy to China, Pakistan and Bhutan, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the concluding segment of the interview.

"When two leaders of the stature of Prime Minister Modi and President Xi meet, you don't look for small outcomes. What is more important is for the two leaders to talk to each other frankly, to explain the goals of their countries to each other, and how they intend to achieve those goals,' adds Ambassador Bambawale, who played a stellar role during the Modi-Xi summit in Wuhan on April 27, 2018.

What does President Trump joining the Howdy Modi event in Houston mean? What import and impact does it have?

What is beginning to happen in the world in the last 20 years, in the first two decades of the 21st century, a trend that will intensify in the next three decades up to 2050 is that there will be three important players at the world level.

The number one economy in PPP terms will be China, number two will be the United States and third is India.

These three countries will have to interact with each other much more closely because what they do and what they decide will impact the entire world.

Therefore, I will put the Houston event in a larger context where not just India and the US, but India, US and China will be playing a very important role globally as the largest economies in the world in PPP terms.

How do you think we should deal with the current turbulence in India-China relations? What needs to be done to return to the Wuhan spirit?

Firstly, I would not play up the Wuhan spirit. We were always sceptical when the media talked about the Wuhan spirit etc. Having said that there have been many positive outcomes and therefore, we must continue to work with China.

Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping must meet in their second informal summit. There are many areas of cooperation between India and China that must be focussed upon.

For example, the trade deficit with China -- one of the ways to reduce trade deficit is to increase tourism from China into India.

It will also have a spin off -- more tourists from China to India and vice versa will result in better understanding of each other's countries amongst ordinary people.

India should make a determined effort to publicise Incredible India to enhance Chinese tourism into India.

Chinese tourists will spend money in India like they are doing in other parts of the world and that will help in at least evening out, if not totally reducing the trade deficit.

One of the other positive outcomes from Wuhan is that the India-China border areas are relatively quiet for almost a year-and-a-half.

Military to military cooperation between the two countries has resumed and been enhanced. We should continue to work on that assiduously.

On the boundary issue -- we have a decisive government with a decisive mandate and a strong prime minister in India. Similarly, there is a strong leader in China. I believe this is a time for India and China to sit down and seriously try to resolve the boundary issue between us.

As someone intimately involved with the Wuhan spirit where the avoidance of military conflict was one of the outcomes -- why do you think we had the recent incident in Ladakh?

I won't play up the recent incident in Ladakh.

Those who know the complexities of the India-China border will tell you not to blow up the issue.

As one swallow does not make a summer, similarly, one incident does not mean that things have changed drastically.

We should wait and see how things develop in the coming months. I think we will see that the understanding on keeping the border areas peaceful and calm will continue.

Would you describe the quick resolution of the Ladakh incident an achievement of post-Wuhan diplomacy?

The quick resolution is due to better communications between the Indian and Chinese military, and this better communication is a direct outcome of the Wuhan informal summit.

Prime Minister Narendra D Modi and China's Supreme Leader Xi Jinping on a house boat in Wuhan.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on a house boat in Wuhan's East Lake, China, April 27, 2018. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

What, in your opinion, will be on the agenda at the Modi-Xi summit in Mahabalipuram? From the Chinese side? From the Indian side? What are the outcomes you would like to see emerge from the summit?

When two leaders of the stature of Prime Minister Modi and President Xi meet, you don't look for small outcomes.

What is more important is for the two leaders to talk to each other frankly, to explain the goals of their countries to each other, and how they intend to achieve those goals.

The Chinese call this strategic communication. The two leaders should discuss wider ranging, broader strategic communication issues.

I am looking for a better understanding of each other at the leadership level which in turn will have to translate down to the local and popular people to people level.

Do you think annual, informal, summits with the Chinese leadership -- on the lines of what we have established with the Russians and Japanese -- are vital to improving the tenor and tone of India-China relations?

The idea of the informal summit has been contributed to diplomacy by India and China. We have annual summits with Russia and Japan, but these are not informal. There is also a formal part to those summits.

Informal summits are something special that India and China have contributed to the lexicon of diplomacy.

An informal summit cuts out all the frills and leaves the two top leaders of India and China to spend as much time as they can talking and understanding each other, each other's countries, governments and policies.

This is something very special and is required between major powers like India and China.

You have interacted with the Dalai Lama several times. Do you believe our decision to keep the Dalai Lama at a governmental distance in the months preceding the Wuhan summit as a kind of appeasement to the Chinese was a correct one?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is revered in India as a religious leader. The fact that India has permitted him to live here for so many decades is a big statement in itself.

All of us in India look upon the Dalai Lama as a true religious leader and we will continue to do that.

I don't think that has changed, I don't think his status in India has changed because ordinary people in India revere him.

I have seen on many occasions when his Holiness the Dalai Lama is at international airports, people from all countries automatically just bend down and touch his feet or do Namaste to him.

This is the ethos of India. In the minds of the people of India, the status of the Dalai Lama hasn't changed.

Is there a possibility that President Xi could call off the October visit?

I don't think so. There are ups and downs in relationships between countries. I have reiterated that India-China relations have always been complex and there are areas of cooperation and areas of differences.

I believe both Prime Minister Modi and President Xi are world leaders with a stature that far surpasses most other leaders of the world today.

They have the maturity to understand that they have all the more reason to meet in today's circumstances and therefore the summit will continue.

ARCHANA MASIH / Rediff.com
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