Two important top-level meetings were taking place in Asia on April 27. While North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un met South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a historic summit at the border town of Punmunjeom in the South, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan city in central-eastern China's Hubei Province.
The two meetings had certain similarities and dissimilarities although both were of immense importance for regional as well as world affairs.
Here is a brief look at what factors bring them close and what don't:
- Both the Koreas and India and China are neighbours who have had a long history of hostility.
- While North Korea's series of nuclear tests in recent times brought it closer to heightened hostilities with South Korea, India and China had a serious military standoff over Doklam in 2017 resulting in a steep deterioration in their relations.
- The inter-korean disturbance has threatened peace in the Korean Peninsula and surrounding regions while India-China standoff has made South Asia filled with political tension. While countries like Japan and Australia have felt the heat because of North Korea's nuclear ambitions, countries like Bhutan and Nepal have felt threatened by the India-China rivalry.
- Both meetings are aimed at giving peace a chance after military actions and standoffs.
- Both meetings view reconciliation between a democratically elected head of government (Modi for India and Moon for South Korea) and authoritarian leaders for life (Xi for China and Kim for North Korea).
- While the Korean Summit is taking place after over a decade and Kim becoming the first ever leader from Pyongyang to set his foot in South Korea; Modi and Xi have met regularly over the last four years despite the deterioration in their relations over odd issues.
- The United States is an important part of the Korean Summit story. Kim is set to meet US President Donald Trump next while Moon is also scheduled to meet Trump before the US-North Korea summit. But in case of India-China bonhomie, the common concern over the Trump administration's unpredictability is a cementing factor.
- Especially for India which has realised that Trump's US is more concerned about using others to serve its own interests than actually backing others against a powerful country like China. For the two BRICS members, it is thus important for both India and China to mend fences and get going together.
- In case of the Korean Summit, the focus is more on the political and diplomatic angles aiming to denuclearise North Korea. In case of India-China talks, the stress is more on the economics - from strengthening bilateral relations to sort out the differences over the Belt & Road Initiative. Unlike the Koreas that have a big difference in their economic standards, both India and China are fast developing economies.
- The Korean meeting is a summit while Modi-Xi talks are more informal.
- The two Koreas are clearly enemies who are technically still at war since their 1950-53 war did not end with a peace treaty but an armistice. India and China, on the other hand, are more "frenemies" with both countries having stakes in each other's economic well-being though they two had also fought a war in 1962.