Modi, Xi meet on Brics sideline

The meeting is first between the two leaders since border conflict intensified in 2020

Modi, Xi meet on Brics sideline

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – whose countries are rivals and have a longstanding border dispute – held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 15th Brics summit, South African Brics Sherpa Professor Anil Sooklal confirmed to the Mail & Guardian.

The two countries, the major economic powerhouses in the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa bloc, share a disputed 3 400 km border, and have fought a series of battles since 1967.

The most recent of these took place last December, and has sparked a militarisation and an infrastructure build up along the Actual Line of Control – as the border zone is known – by both nations.

This outbreak of fighting followed on the 2020 clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, in which 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand fighting and which saw the deployment of around 50 000 troops by both sides.

However, de-escalation talks have been taking place between military commanders along the ALC, with the latest round – the 19th of its kind – taking place last week.

The diplomatic source told the M&G that the two leaders had met on Wednesday, with a second source saying that it had come at the request of Modi, who leaves South Africa for Greece on Friday.

The two leaders had not met since the current border standoff began in May 2020 and several diplomatic sources indicated ahead of the summit that there were hopes that they would use the opportunity provided by Brics to do so.

In his statement on Tuesday, Modi said that he looked forward to holding bilateral discussions with some of his fellow Brics leaders at the summit, which ended on Thursday.

Modi is understood to have held a bilateral meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday, with the Xi meeting taking place later in the course of the day.

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