As the two-day G20 Summit began in Hamburg on Friday, two handshakes stole the show on the first day.
Amid a lengthy stand-off between India and China at the border near Sikkim, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping upon their arrival in the northern German city on Friday. They not only shook hands, but also greeted each other ahead of an informal meeting of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). During the BRICS meeting that took place on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, both PM Modi and President Xi exchanged words of praise.
In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that the Chinese president “appreciated India’s strong resolve against terrorism and the momentum in BRICS introduced under India’s chairmanship and through the outcomes of the Goa Summit in 2016.” Xi also appreciated India’s success in economic and social development, and wished the South Asian country even bigger success in the coming days.
Premier Modi, too, “appreciated momentum in BRICS under the Chairmanship of President Xi”. According to the Indian ministry, the PM extended co-operation and best wishes for the BRICS Summit to be held in the Chinese port city of Xiamen in September.
Earlier, New Delhi confirmed that the two leaders would hold no bilateral meeting in Germany, saying that “the atmosphere is not right” for a formal meeting. The relation between the two Asian giants has deteriorated recently due to the stand-off that began in June. Beijing has issued a series of warnings to New Delhi, asking India to withdraw its troops from Doklam – an area near Sikkim that China claims as its own. India deployed soldiers in Doklam early in June in order to stop the construction of a road by the Chinese Army. India claimed that the Chinese action has security implications for it. On the other hand, Beijing accused the Indian Army of violating an 1890 border agreement between Britain and China, insisting that no dialogue could take place till the Indian troops are pulled back. Although Modi and Xi exchanged greetings and discussed ‘a range of issues’ on the sidelines of the G20 Summit on Friday, it was not clear whether the Doklam face-off was touched on during the ‘meeting’ that lasted 5-7 minutes.
(3 Ms: Modi, Merkel, Macron)
Later, PM Modi, naming Pakistan-based terror groups Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), said at the Summit that some countries were using terror as a tool to achieve political objectives and pressed for a collective ‘deterrent’ action by the G20 members. Equating both terror groups to Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the Indian PM said that their names might be different, but their ideology was the same.
Meanwhile, the G20 Summit also presented American President Donald Trump with an opportunity to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the first time.
As a warm-up for their planned, formal meeting in the evening, Trump and Putin shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. In fact, it was the American president who stretched out his hand to President Putin before patting the latter’s elbow, with both men smiling. The German government almost immediately posted a video of the face-to-face encounter between the two men on Facebook. Later, the Russian president’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the press that the two leaders “shook hands and told each other that they will shortly have a separate meeting”.
In the evening, the long-anticipated meeting between the two took place in the presence of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Tillerson informed the media that President Trump discussed about Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 US Presidential Election and the ongoing conflict in Syria during his two hour and 16 minute meeting with Putin. The Russian president also addressed Moscow’s actions in Ukraine at the meeting that had no specific agenda. Although Lavrov told the press that Trump accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia did not interfere in the election, the White House rejected the Russian minister’s claim.
Meanwhile, both Washington and Moscow confirmed that the two countries reached an agreement on a ceasefire in southwest Syria on Friday. The deal marks a new level of involvement for the US in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war.
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