Two summits, one message: Peace comes through talks, not guns

Two developments happened last week which, though unconnected, can change the complexion of global politics in the years to come if they live up to their promise. The first is the ‘informal summit’ between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the second is the summit meet between leaders of North Korea and South Korea.

The interaction between President Xi and Prime Minister was a free-wheeling one with an aim to enhance the trust factor between the two leaders and nations. ‘Trust’ is the key that can determine future ties and help resolve all outstanding disputes. Beijing and New Delhi are already closely working on a number of issues, both global and bilateral. But there are irritants too, which have persisted despite the many high-level talks that have taken place, and they pertain to the boundary dispute and China’s support to Pakistan despite the latter’s involvement in terror activities against India. The resolution of the first will take time, but there are at least established mechanisms to attempt a solution — the Special Representatives system is one such.

There are also agreements which bind the two countries to resolve the dispute through dialogue and not with the use of force. But it is Beijing’s support to Pakistan on the wrong issues that concerns India. Also, China’s refusal to green flag India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group is another subject that riles New Delhi. On these fronts, China has refused to see New Delhi’s point of view. Perhaps more informal summits of the kind we saw recently will help break the ice here.

At the same time, we must be realistic to understand that there are other matters on which the India-China cooperation can move ahead, and this realisation is thankfully there on both sides. The closer the two nations get the better it will be for the region and for the global order. The second event — the meeting of the two Korean leaders — was indeed historic. It was the for the first time since 1953 that a North Korean leader had set foot on South Korean soil. The meeting happened rather suddenly and far early than even the optimists had expected.

North Korea has agreed to contain its nuclear programme, but for that to happen — and more importantly, for North Korea to sustain that confidence-building activity — there will have to be assurances from the US-led West of non-belligerence. But the ball is in North Korea’s court. Its supremo Kim Jong-un is known for his unpredictable ways and it remains to be seen whether he will follow through this historic meeting with a host of responsible measures. The fact that he came for the summit was a good sign. Peace in the Korean peninsula and the larger Asian region is not an impossibility, after all.