Nine months after they last met during the G20 Summit in Bali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to each other and shook hands at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg Thursday as they joined other leaders to announce the expansion of the grouping.
Xi is expected to travel to New Delhi for the G20 Summit being hosted by India on September 9-10.
In recent days, commanders of the two countries have held a series of talks to resolve issues relating to the military standoff along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh since May 2020.
In a video webcast Thursday by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Summit host broadcaster, Modi was seen chatting with Xi, and they shook hands after the joint media statements.
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2023
No interpreters or note-takers were around when the two leaders spoke to each other.
Until evening, there was no official announcement of a bilateral meeting between the two leaders.
There was no readout of their brief conversation from either the Indian or Chinese side.
Modi and Xi were present at the BRICS leaders’ retreat, hosted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Tuesday night as well, which was also attended by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The last time the two leaders had a similar encounter, a brief one, was at the G20 Summit dinner in Bali in November 2022, and it was initially described as a mere exchange of courtesies.
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Last month, after the Chinese Foreign Ministry mentioned the “important consensus” between the two leaders at the Bali Summit, India confirmed that Modi and Xi had spoken about the “need to stabilise bilateral relations”.
A conversation between the two leaders holds the prospect of moving the needle forward – ties between India and China nosedived following incursions by the Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh in May 2020.
In recent weeks, the two sides have had a series of conversations at multiple levels — between their Foreign Ministers, National Security Advisors, Corps Commanders, Major Generals and other commanders on the ground.