Xi and Modi hold talks in China, agree to improve bilateral ties

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Qingdao, China,

Qingdao, China: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to continue improving ties between Asia’s most populous countries in a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a summit in China.

Xi was hosting leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the coastal city of Qingdao over the weekend. The China-led grouping includes India, Russia, Pakistan and several Central Asian countries, as well as Iran as an observer state.

“Met this year’s SCO host, President Xi Jinping this evening,” Modi tweeted on Saturday. “We had detailed discussions on bilateral and global issues. “Our talks will add further vigour to the India-China friendship.”

The two nations signed agreements on Saturday on the export of non-Basmati varieties of rice from India and information-sharing between China and India on the Brahmaputra river in flood season.

The SCO meeting — which also features Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — comes as the US considers new sanctions on Iran, and immediately before US President Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12.

In late April, Xi and Modi held an informal meeting in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where they agreed to have their two armies strengthen communication links. The meeting was arranged to help maintain peaceful relations in a tense bilateral relationship that frayed significantly over a border dispute in the Himalayas last year. It was held at a time when global tensions were on the rise from North Korea to a brewing global trade war.

The SCO, which was founded in 2001, is sometimes considered a China-backed, eastern counterweight to the western Nato alliance because of an emphasis on security and a stated aim of creating a “new international political and economic order.”

The US was not invited to be a part of the group and officials have worried about the group’s influence on democracy and human rights across Asia.

Neighbours India and Pakistan, historic arch-rivals that have fought several wars, joined the SCO as full member states in June 2017. The previous year, India led a boycott of a summit for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or Saarc, over what New Delhi alleged was “increasing cross-border terrorist attacks” by Pakistan.

Xi accepts Modi’s invite

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation for a Wuhan-style informal summit in India next year, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in Qingdao on Saturday.

The two leaders had their first informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan on April 27-28 to solidify the relationship in a broad spectrum of areas and ensuring better coordination between the border guarding forces of the two countries after the Dokalam standoff.

Prime Minister Modi had detailed discussions with President Xi on bilateral and global issues which will add further vigour to the India-China friendship.

Addressing a press briefing here, Gokhale said that one of the important outcomes of today’s meeting between the two leaders was that the Chinese side conveyed that they have accepted the Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to President Xi to have a similar informal summit in India in 2019.

He said that the date for the informal meeting has not been decided.

Modi arrived in the picturesque coastal city of China’s Shandong province on a two-day visit to attend the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

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