From deliberations during a walk along Wuhan's East Lake to 'productive' discussions over tea is how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'informal summit' with Chinese president Xi Jinping went last month. The prime minister is scheduled to have another 'informal summit'. This time, he is going to Russia on 21 May to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin for "agendaless" talks in the summer beach resort of Sochi.
Modi will be travelling to Russia at Putin's invitation, the government said. An external affairs ministry release said Modi's visit to Russia will be an important occasion for him and Putin to exchange views on international matters in a broad and long-term perspective in order to further strengthen the special and privileged strategic partnership.
"Both leaders will discuss their respective national developmental priorities and bilateral matters," the statement said.
It said the informal summit was in keeping with the tradition of regular consultations between India and Russia at the highest level.
Meanwhile, official sources told PTI the issues on the table may include the economic impact on India and Russia in the wake of the US president Donald Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the situation in Afghanistan, Syria, the threat of terrorism and matters relating to the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS summits.
The sources further said the possible impact of the US sanctions against Russia under Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on India-Russia defence cooperation may also figure during the talks between the two leaders.
The sources said the large part of the informal meeting between Modi and Putin will be one-to-one and there may be limited segment for restricted delegation-level discussions. They said Putin will to also host a lunch for Modi.
However, sources told NDTV that the tricky issues involving defence deals would not be brought up, even as reports have emerged that India trying to acquire 200 Kamov Ka 226T helicopters from Russia was on the agenda.
Sources quoted in the report said that the no-frills attached visit would be "agendaless, flexible and would have no formalities in terms of protocol," and would discuss several international and regional issues but not many domestic issues will be taken up as those are discussed at the annual summit between the two sides later in the year.
'Similar to Wuhan summit'
The aim of the informal summit is to use the friendship and trust between the two countries to create convergence on key global and regional issues, official sources told PTI.
The two leaders may also deliberate on extending India-Russia civil nuclear cooperation in third countries, possible areas for cooperation for the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project, India’s engagement with five-nation Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the situation in the Korean peninsula.
This is the second such informal summit in as many months for the prime minister. He used the same format during his talks with Xi. The concept of an informal summit was stated to be unique as the two leaders have no pressure and obligation to strike any agreements nor make big announcements but focus mainly on candid discussions on solutions to some of the vexing problems.
Indian official sources told The Wire that the summit was prefixed with the word 'informal' to make it less protocol heavy. The report further said that a formal summit usually involves talks across table, with the two leaders first reading out an opening statement after which issues are then picked up from the agenda. Typically, a joint declaration would already have been negotiated before the leaders meet and would be ready to be released to the media.
However, at the Wuhan summit, the setting of the talks played an important role. Modi and Xi viewed antique Chinese artefacts at the Hubei Provincial Museum, where they also exchanged views on boosting dialogue between their two ancient civilisations and how to live peacefully together, Xinhua said.
The next day, they took a walk together and then an hour-long boat-trip. Informal settings, mostly without aides, seemed to be important to lead to frank discussions.
The one-on-one talks during the Wuhan summit were followed by delegation-level interaction with six top officials each from both sides took part, giving an impression that some of the critical issues were on the table for discussion, according to PTI. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Indian Ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale were present in the meeting.
The informal summit in Sochi will be somewhat similar to the Wuhan summit, according to The Economic Times. Modi and Putin will be engaged in a one-on-one interaction soon after the prime minister arrives in the resort city on 21 May. This will be followed by a lunch where both leaders will be accompanied only by senior officials from both sides. Thereafter, the two leaders will be engaged in another tete-a-tete including interaction through a possible walk.
The agenda, therefore, is open-ended and broad at the Sochi summit, NDTV report added. Putin will also host a lunch for Modi, but there will be no "guard of honour". There will be no other minister accompanying the prime minister and no documents or joint statement is expected from this meeting either, the report added.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: May 18, 2018 15:07:42 IST