April 27 a big day for Asian diplomacy: Modi to meet Xi; Kim to sit with Moon
The coming Friday, April 27, will be a big day in the history of Asian diplomacy. On this day, the heads of government of four states of the continent will meet over two separate meetings to flag off a new era in their respective bilateral relations.
In one event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in an "informal summit" at Wuhan city in Hubei province in central-eastern China over a day-day affair on April 27 & 28. The two sides' agreement over the meeting was made public following a meeting between the foreign ministers of India and China - Sushma Swaraj and Wang Yi, respectively. Wang even called the upcoming event a "new starting point" in the relationship.
In the other event, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a widely awaited summit on the South Korean territory at the truce town of Panmunjeom.
The meeting will be the culmination of the reconciliation which started at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in February this year and a series of parleys between the officials on both sides.
Both the meetings between the top leadership of India and China and North and South Korea would be aimed at peace at bilateral and regional levels. However, there are certain differences between the two top-level meetings as well.
US has different positions in these two meetings
The India-China meeting, which is taking place in the wake of the Doklam standoff in 2017, has an element of shared concern and that concern is the United States.
Although India has gone closer to the US in the recent decade or so owing to strategic, political and economic reasons, the situation has not been as easy and smooth under President Donald Trump who has not hesitated to target anybody who he perceives to be a threat to the interests of the US.
From visa to visit the US to opposing the climate pact to declare a trade war - Trump hasn't stopped short of any extreme measures and this has created a common concern for fast developing economies like India and China to mend things between them.
India and China are also members of the BRICS community which looks to lead a new international order and the economic stakes are quite high for both nations to get stuck in disruptive issues like border skirmishes or terror or the growing Chinese influence in India's neighbourhood through Belt & Road Initiative and other bilateral measures between China and the smaller countries of South Asia.
A good thing about the India-China relation is that Modi and Xi haven't stopped seeing each other even when chips are down in their countries' bilateral relations.
They have met regularly in India, China or neutral venues over the last four years and it is a crucial factor which can propel the relationship forward even when odds are high.
The Korean Summit
The Korean summit's story is not the same. The leaders of the two Koreas are meeting after over a decade through the upcoming meeting, only the third in history is a much more transparent event compared to the previous two occasions that were held secretly in Pyongyang.
This meeting has also generated a lot of hope as both sides have exhibited an intent to genuinely give peace a chance with Kim Jong-un, even declaring before the summit his unconditional plan for stopping nuclear experiments and shutting the site.
Another difference that the Korean summit has with the India-China talks is that the US is not a common concern here. Rather, Trump has been an integral part of the entire network of diplomacy which is being formed for achieving peace in the volatile Korean Peninsula.
North Korea proposed talks with Trump through South Korea which the latter accepted at once and then blessed the two Koreas leaderships' meeting each other.
Trump also sent his NIA chief Mike Pompeo to North Korea secretly to prepare the grounds for the rapprochement and all these efforts gradually paid off towards sanctions-crippled North Korea softening its stand and agreeing to unconditional peace-making.
Trump's own upcoming meeting with Kim in May end or early June has given more weight to the April 27 summit between the two Koreas as well.