India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping preside over two of Asia’s biggest economies, each with a population well over 1 billion.
But when the two leaders met for a summit this week in India, their handshakes and pledges of cooperation were overshadowed by a mere 1,000 soldiers and a group of yak herders miles away on a windswept Himalayan plateau. There, in a remote region called Ladakh, soldiers and civilians had been engaged in two border disputes that lasted for days.
The incidents overcast a visit that was trumpeted by both sides as a “historic” occasion, the first by the Chinese president since Modi became prime minister in May. Since then, Modi has faced the dual challenge of strengthening his country’s relations with other neighbors, especially Japan, while pressing for greater investment from the Chinese, crucial to his plan to modernize and expand India’s infrastructure.
On the second day of talks Thursday, leaders for the two countries announced a partnership to improve Indian railways and China’s $20 billion investment in two industrial parks in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Xi, in his remarks, said that Chinese companies would partner with India to improve railway speeds and open market access in China for India products such as pharmaceuticals, agricultural goods and fuel. The two trade more than $66 billion annually, the majority in Chinese exports.
Modi, for his part, lauded the economic partnerships but said he had “raised serious concern over repeated incidents along the border” during the 90-minute meeting with Xi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.