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a) Making sense of the Wuhan reset

On the cards was a possible reset of ties between India and China in the wake of the ‘informal summit’ in Wuhan (April 27-28) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The outcome is uncertain, however. The choice by China of Wuhan, a city situated in the middle reaches of the Yangtze, though was not accidental. Wuhan is symbolic of China’s resilience and economic might today. It was possibly chosen by Mr. Xi to showcase China’s progress since Mr. Modi (as Chief Minister of Gujarat) had last paid a visit to the region. As Mr. Xi proceeds towards his next goal, ‘Made in China 2025’, he may also have wanted to demonstrate the wide gulf that seems to separate his programme from Mr. Modi’s own struggles to make a success of India’s ‘Make in India’ programme. The visit to the museum and the boat ride on the lake, in turn, were possibly intended to demonstrate the extent of China’s soft power.

Trust-building exercise

An ‘informal summit’ is different from a regular summit. India clearly viewed this ‘informal summit’ as a trust-building exercise, hoping to quietly sort out problems that existed between the two countries, including the vexed border issue. Absence of any formal joint communiqué that is sacrosanct for any summit also enables each side to spell out its own impressions of any outcomes. India has already used this to project that India and China are on the same page in dealing with global problems. It cannot be certain though that China sees the world through this same prism. Mr. Modi used the occasion to convey his ideas on what was needed to be achieved, viz. a shared vision, a shared thought process, a shared resolve, a strong relationship and better communication, between the two countries. He further emphasised the importance of a global leadership role for both nations — two major powers linked by history across more than two millennia. He provided his vision of the Five Principles defining the relationship: Soch (thought), Sampark (contact), Sahyog (cooperation), Sankalp (determination) and Sapne (dreams). Enumerating the main takeaways, in the absence of a joint communiqué, is not easy. One outcome was to have more such summits, alongside an agreement between the leaders for provision of greater ‘strategic communications’ at the highest level. Another was the opportunity it provided to give ‘strategic guidance’ to the respective militaries to build trust and understanding for ‘prudent management of differences with mutual sensitivity’. A third was the agreement between India and China to work together jointly on an economic project in Afghanistan, with details to be worked out through diplomatic channels. Both sides also reiterated the need to cooperate on counter-terrorism, and to strengthen the dialogue mechanism to deal with contentious issues and concerns. Both have agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in all areas of the India-China border. The claim by the Indian side that the two countries today have ‘wider and overlapping regional and global interests’ meriting sharper ‘strategic communications’ is, however, subject to interpretation. On the border issue, the summit appears to have reinforced the validity of the April 2005 Document on ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question’, which was signed in the presence of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. This document happens to be one of the very few that implicitly acknowledges India’s claims to certain ‘disputed’ areas in the Arunachal sector of the India-China border. Ever since signing on to the ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles’ in 2005, China has been trying to reinterpret the contents of the document. If the informal summit, as claimed by the Indian side, has endorsed adherence to the letter and spirit of the 2005 Agreement, it marks an important milestone in the settlement of the border issue. The wisdom of holding an informal summit when other, and possibly better, avenues of diplomacy are available is debatable. India’s preference for an informal summit so as to be able to discuss contentious issues with China away from media glare and publicity — and the many trappings of diplomacy — is understandable. China’s acquiescence in this form of diplomacy is less understood. At best, China could have hoped to extract some concessions from India as the price for agreeing to an informal summit, viz. putting curbs on the Dalai Lama’s activities in India or backing away from the U.S. policy of containment of China in Asia.

A pivotal moment

China is today at a pivotal moment in its history, having embarked on preparations for a pole position in the global sweepstakes. The U.S. and the West are not ready to openly confront China, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. China currently has a vital role to play in the maintenance of peace in the Korean Peninsula, and in ensuring that the forthcoming Trump-Kim Jong-un talks are not jeopardised. The China-Russia equation today is much stronger than previously. China may be feared in East and South Asia, but no country here has the capacity to challenge China. It has established new equations in West Asia, including with Iran. In the South Asian neighbourhood, China is positioning itself as an alternative to India. One must, hence, look for reasons elsewhere as to why China is adopting a less than belligerent attitude towards India. It appears that China is positioning itself for bigger things and to play bigger roles. This period is thus a defining one for China. Behind the rubric of a looming trade war between the U.S. and China — which is, without doubt, one of China’s major concerns — is China’s unstated struggle to redefine the rules governing economic and power relations worldwide. At a time when the U.S. is busy lining up the vast majority of Western democracies to checkmate China’s advance, the latter is equally anxious to build support in its favour in Asia and elsewhere to counter the U.S. The India-China reset talks must, therefore, be seen in this wider perspective and context. It cannot be seen in isolation. At about the same time, on the India-China reset talks, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was in Tokyo to meet his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe as part of a major two-stage initiative. The Li-Abe meeting has reportedly helped remove many of the cobwebs in China-Japan trade and strategic relations. Leaders of China, Japan and South Korea also met in Japan at about the same time to devise measures that were needed to move ahead with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (India is a part of the RCEP, but a reinvigorated RCEP, alongside a China-Japan reset does not augur well for India).

No concessions

It should not, therefore, be surprising that in spite of China’s acquiescence in an informal summit, the report card from Wuhan does not add up to much in real terms. No manifest concessions appear to have been made by China. The Doklam issue (which was not discussed at the summit) remains unresolved, with China still in the driving seat. There are no indications that China has softened its attitude vis-à-vis India’s position in Arunachal Pradesh, or that it will refrain from accusing India of further transgressions here. China’s penetration of India’s neighbourhood is set to continue, with special emphasis on countries such as Nepal and the Maldives. China again has not conceded anything with reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India may believe that it has demonstrated good faith by putting certain curbs on the Dalai Lama’s activities, but this is hardly likely to satisfy China’s concerns about his role. Meanwhile, India should be concerned about Beijing’s defence budget for 2018. This is being increased by 8.1% over that of the previous year, and is in keeping with the decision of the Chinese 19th Party Congress (October 2017) to build a world class military. Mr. Li is on record that China would now focus on building strong naval and air defences, bolstered by the infusion of high technology. This can only further encourage China to expand its activities in the Indian Ocean region.


1) Resilience

Meaning: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Example: “the often-remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

Synonyms: Flexibility

Antonyms: Vulnerability, Weakness

2) Demonstrate

Meaning: Clearly show the existence or truth of (something) by giving proof or evidence.

Example: “their shameful silence demonstrates their ineptitude”

Synonyms: Reveal, Indicate

Antonyms: Hide

3) Intended

Meaning: Planned or meant.

Example: “the intended victim escaped”

Synonyms: Deliberated, Intentional

Antonyms: Accidental

4) Trust-building

Meaning: The activity of developing trust between people so that they can work more effectively.

Example: The company recognizes that trust building in labor relations is a long process.

5) Sort out

Meaning: An act of tidying or organizing things by separating them into categories.

Example: “start your kitchen reorganization with a sort-out”

6) Vexed

Meaning: (of a problem or issue) difficult and much debated; problematic.

Example: “the vexed question of how much money the government is going to spend”

Synonyms: Debatable, Contentious

Antonyms: Undisputed, Resolved

7) Communiqué

Meaning: An official announcement or statement, especially one made to the media.

Example: “the country’s foreign ministry issued a communique”

Synonyms: Message, Notification

8) Sacrosanct

Meaning: (especially of a principle, place, or routine) regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with.

Example: “the individual’s right to work has been upheld as sacrosanct”

Synonyms: Inviolable, Sacred

9) Spell out

Meaning: To explain something in a very clear way with details.

Example: The government has so far refused to spell out its plans/policies.

Synonyms: Defining, Explaining

10) Emphasised

Meaning: Give special importance or value to (something) in speaking or writing.

Example: “they emphasize the need for daily, one-to-one contact between parent and child”

Synonyms: Highlight, Spotlight

Antonyms: Understate

11) Millennia

Meaning: The point at which one period of a thousand years ends and another begins.

Example: “as we approach the millennium the only certainty is change”

12) Enumerating

Meaning: Mention (a number of things) one by one.

Example: “there is not space to enumerate all his works”

Synonyms: List, Catalogue

13) Provision

Meaning: The action of providing or supplying something for use.

Example: “new contracts for the provision of services”

Synonyms: Supply, Providing

14) Prudent

Meaning: Acting with or showing care and thought for the future.

Example: “no prudent money manager would authorize a loan without first knowing its purpose”

Synonyms: Wise, Sagacious

Antonyms: Imprudent, Unwise

15) Reiterated

Meaning: Say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity.

Example: “she reiterated that the government would remain steadfast in its support”

Synonyms: Repeat, Restate

16) Contentious

Meaning: Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.

Example: “a contentious issue”

Synonyms: Controversial, Disputable

17) Concerns

Meaning: A cause of anxiety or worry.

Example: “environmental concerns”

Synonyms: Affair, Issue

18) Tranquillity

Meaning: The quality or state of being tranquil; calm.

Example: “passing cars are the only noise that disturbs the tranquility of rural life”

Synonyms: Peace, Repose

Antonyms: Commotion

19) Overlapping

Meaning: Cover part of the same area of interest, responsibility, etc.

Example: “the union’s commitments overlapped with those of NATO”

20) Interpretation

Meaning: An explanation or way of explaining.

Example: “this action is open to a number of interpretations”

Synonyms: Meaning, Understanding

21) Implicitly

Meaning: In a way that is not directly expressed; tacitly.

Example: “she implicitly suggested that he was responsible for the error”

Synonyms: Completely, Totally

22) Reinterpret

Meaning: Interpret (something) in a new or different light.

Example: “excavated market buildings have now more plausibly been reinterpreted as temples”

23) Trappings

Meaning: The outward signs, features, or objects associated with a particular situation, role, or job.

Example: “I had the trappings of success”

Synonyms: Adornment, Decoration

24) Acquiescence

Meaning: The reluctant acceptance of something without protest.

Example: “in silent acquiescence, she rose to her feet”

Synonyms: Permit, Allow

Antonyms: Forbid, Refusal

25) Concessions

Meaning: The action of conceding or granting something.

Example: “this strict rule was relaxed by concession”

Synonyms: Admission, Acceptance

Antonyms: Denial, Retention

26) Backing away

Meaning: To show that you do not support a plan or idea any longer and do not want to be involved with it.

Example: The government has backed away from plans to increase taxes.

Synonyms: Running away, Escaping

27) Containment

Meaning: The action or policy of preventing the expansion of a hostile country or influence.

Example: “a policy of containment and negotiation was the appropriate course of action”

28) Pivotal

Meaning: Of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else.

Example: “Japan’s pivotal role in the world economy”

Synonyms: Central, Crucial

29) Embarked

Meaning: Begin (a course of action).

Example: “she embarked on a new career”

Synonyms: Begin, Start

Antonyms: End, Close

30) Sweepstakes

Meaning: A competition.

Example: She won $5000 in a charity sweepstakes.

31) Rhetoric

Meaning: Speech or writing intended to be effective and influence people.

Example: How far the president will be able to translate his campaign rhetoric into action remains to be seen.

32) Jeopardised

Meaning: Put (someone or something) into a situation in which there is a danger of loss, harm, or failure.

Example: “a devaluation of the dollar would jeopardize New York’s position as a financial center”

Synonyms: Threaten, Endanger

Antonyms: Safeguard

33) Belligerent

Meaning: Hostile and aggressive.

Example: “the mood at the meeting was belligerent”

Synonyms: Hostile, Aggressive

Antonyms: Friendly, Peaceable

34) Rubric

Meaning: A category.

Example: “party policies on matters falling under the rubric of law and order”

35) Reinvigorated

Meaning: Give new energy or strength to.

Example: “we are fully committed to reinvigorating the economy of the area”

36) Manifest

Meaning: Clear or obvious to the eye or mind.

Example: “her manifest charm and proven ability”

Synonyms: Obvious, Clear

Antonyms: Hidden, Secret

37) Transgressions

Meaning: An act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offence.

Example: “I’ll be keeping an eye out for further transgressions”

Synonyms: Offence, Crime

Antonyms: Obedience

38) Penetration

Meaning: To move into or through something.

Example: The drill isn’t sharp enough to penetrate into the rock.

39) Bolstered

Meaning: Support or strengthen.

Example: “the fall in interest rates is starting to bolster confidence”

Synonyms: Strengthen, Support

Antonyms: Undermine

40) Infusion

Meaning: The introduction of a new element or quality into something.

Example: “the infusion of $6.3 million for improvements”

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