Xi and Modi to come face-to-face thrice this month even as China embarks on its rail-and-road border project

Xi and Modi to come face-to-face thrice this month even as China embarks on its rail-and-road border project
China's President Xi Jinping and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a summit in Wuhan in 2018BCCL
  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping have not met once since tensions broke out between the two countries over the disputed border between them.
  • They will be coming face-to-face for the first time in November since the Galwan Valley clash that left 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of casualties on the Chinese side.
  • Modi and Xi aren’t just scheduled to meet once, but three times — at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Heads of State summit on November 15, the BRICS summit on November 17 and the G20 summit between November 21 and 22.
India and China have been locked in a standoff along their shared border amid the northern reaches of the Himalayas for nearly six months now. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are yet to face each other since the clash in Galwan Valley, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an undisclosed number of casualties on the Chinese side — until now.

As November rolls in, Xi and Modi are scheduled to meet each other, albeit virtually, at least three times. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Heads of State summit on November 10 will be their first encounter since tensions started simmering between the two Asian giants.

This will be followed by the BRICS summit on November 17 and the G20 summit between November 21 and 22.

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These meetings come as both countries locked in a race to keep up appearances on the border and build connectivity infrastructure along the border.

China’s new plans for a rail and road network
The conflict between India and China is no longer about who fired the first shot but who will come out on top when this all ends. India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated 44 bridges in border areas— including eight in Ladakh, two in Himachal, and four each in Punjab and Sikkim — last month.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated the world’s longest high-altitude tunnel in Ladakh.

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Even though India is only catching up with the vast expanse of border infrastructure that China already has in place, the dragon isn’t about the left behind.

China followed India’s developments with its own plans of constructing the strategic Sichuan-Tibet Railway, according to PTI. It doesn’t extend to the Indian border, but does reach into Tibet’s Linzhi province, which is as close as China can get to Arunachal Pradesh without inciting fresh conflict.

Over the weekend, China Railway announced the bidding results for constructing two tunnels, one bridge, and a power supply project to put the railway line together. The project will stretch across 1,0111 kilometers and cost around $47.8 billion.

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The race to build roads to the border
Border infrastructure is key to any country’s national security. It is, in fact, the match that lit the fire between India and China.

Experts claim that India caught China by surprise when it began developing the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat-Beg-Oldi (DSDBO) Road. It’s an all-weather road in Eastern Ladakh — where the India-China conflict is currently playing out. It cuts the time needed to traverse the distance between Leh and the DBO post down from two days to just six hours.

As both nations continue to boost their border infrastructure, the ultimate outcome is anyone's guess. And, even though several meetings have taken place between military chiefs and foreign ministers, this could be a potential conversation between Modi and Xi, one that may turn the tide.

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