Much of the commentary in state-controlled Chinese media today and over the last couple of days has been unusually positive about the upcoming Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping meet marking it as a landmark occasion with the same potential as the Rajiv Gandhi-Deng Xiaoping meeting of 1988.
The similarity is indeed there. The most obvious one being that Modi too, unfortunately, delayed his initiative until the final lap of his 5-year term as prime minister. Also, both Modi and Rajiv Gandhi acted in the aftermath of standoffs at the border, which were flaunted as ‘muscularity’.
A China daily said that the meeting between the two countries’ premiers as a major chance to lift the ties between China and India as it is “one of the most consequential for the 21st century.”
The good part is that Modi has a strategic vision. China is one country he knows well, having visited it several times before becoming prime minister. Without any doubt, Beijing too regards Modi as a forceful Indian leader who is a keen reformer himself and is devoted to transforming the relationship with China.
Never before in the history of the relationship has there been such an intense flow of back-to-back high-level visits as during the Modi era.
In 1988, Rajiv became the first Indian PM to visit China since 1954; his visit, like Modi’s now post-Doklam, came immediately after a period of prolonged border skirmishes. That visit, as a source said, “normalized Sino-Indian relations” after which the two nations “maintained 30 years of stable development”.