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BRICS Summit: PM Modi to hold multiple bilaterals with member nations but all eyes on India-China talks

Despite being a jam-packed schedule, the major highlight would be if the Indian PM met Chinese President Xi Jinping before leaving the event.

Ajeet Kumar Written By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Johannesburg Updated on: August 24, 2023 11:19 IST
Prime Minister Modi in South Africa BRICS Summit
Image Source : PTI Prime Minister Modi in South Africa BRICS Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in South Africa's national capital Johannesburg, for the much-anticipated BRICS Summit, is scheduled to hold multiple bilateral meetings with South Africa on Thursday. However, the whole world is eyeing whether the two Asian giants-- India and China-- would hold any bilateral on the sidelines of the mega event.

According to the schedule, the Prime Minister will hold back-to-back meetings with member countries besides attending BRICS Africa Outreach and BRICS Plus Dialogue. Despite being a jam-packed schedule, the major highlight would be if the Indian PM met Chinese President Xi Jinping before leaving the event.

As of now, neither the Ministry of External Affairs nor the Prime Minister's Office clarified any planned meeting between the two leaders. However, there were reports that the PM will hold meetings with the heads of five countries including Iran, Ethiopia and Mozambique but it did not mention the names of the other two nations.

Foreign Secy gave a cryptic reply

While addressing a special press conference on Monday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra gave a cryptic reply to the reporters who asked him about the possibility of PM Modi meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He did not give a direct reply on the possibility of a meeting but instead said that the schedule of the Prime Minister's bilateral meetings is being finalised.

Notably, both sides have not sat together ever since a clash broke out between the Indian Army and China's PLA in 2020. During the violent clash, at least 20 Indian soldiers were martyred but Beijing did not provide any details of casualties.

If the bilateral meeting takes place, it will be their first since the India-China border standoff began. 

Xi skipped the BRICS economic summit 

Moreover, Xi on Tuesday, unexpectedly skipped the crucial BRICS Business Forum meeting despite his multiple pushes to boost the Chinese economy on the sidelines of the mega event.  Despite being present in South Africa, his Commerce Minister Wang Wentao delivered the speech on behalf of the Chinese President wherein he came heavily on the "West's hegemony" and asserted it deliberately hindering the path of those nations which dare to progress at a rapid pace or more than its economy.  

It is worth mentioning that the world leaders have accumulated in South Africa for the much-awaited 15th BRICS Summit. During the Business summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov were present at the event.

PM Modi and Xi had a brief interaction on the Galwan clash last year 

When the leaders met during the G20 Summit in Bali last year, they had a brief interaction. Initially, the Ministry of External Affairs denied both leaders discussed any issues and called the meeting a "welcome gesture". However, earlier last month, the ministry confirmed that PM Modi and the Chinese President had discussed border issues when they met briefly at the Bali Summit.

, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that both of them exchanged courtesies and spoke of the need to stabilize bilateral relationships or relations. "During the Bali G20 Summit last year, Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping, after the dinner hosted by the Indonesian President, exchanged courtesies and spoke of the need to stabilize our bilateral relations," Bagchi said in a regular press conference.

"I think Foreign Secretary did mention maybe he didn't mention the second part of it. He did talk about exchanging courtesies and I think there was a general discussion or spoke of the need to stabilize our bilateral relationship or relations," he added.

Why Chinese statement come as a big surprise for India?

It is worth mentioning that the meeting between New Delhi and Beijing is considered crucial amid the fact the two nations engaged in a deadly clash in Ladakh in May 2020. Nevertheless, holding multiple meetings with commanders and defence ministers of both sides, the issue betwixt is still unsettled.

Although the two world leaders held a series of meetings including when the duo met at a seaside resort at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu in October 2019, a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019, they did not hold any bilateral meeting after a deadly border clash. 

Also, they had attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan last year, and neither did they hold any bilateral meeting on the sideline of the mega event.

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