Modi tells Xi relations are stable, differences manageable

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China's President Xi Jinping exchange gifts in Mamallapuram on the outskirts of Chennai, India, October 12, 2019. (Reuters)
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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China's President Xi Jinping talk during their meeting in Mamallapuram on the outskirts of Chennai, India, October 12, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 12 October 2019

Modi tells Xi relations are stable, differences manageable

  • The two leaders avoided the vexed Kashmir dispute from clouding their summit in the seaside temple town of Mamallapuram
  • According to India's Commerce Ministry, India's exports to China amounted to $13.33 billion in the 2018 financial year, compared with imports of $76.38 billion

MAMALLAPURAM, India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday that relations between their countries have attained stability and momentum in the past year, and that it should enable them to manage their differences and avoid disputes.
The two leaders avoided the vexed Kashmir dispute from clouding their summit in the seaside temple town of Mamallapuram. Modi said both countries agreed to be sensitive to each other's concerns as they held delegation-level talks.
Modi and Xi were meeting at a time of tensions over Beijing's support for Pakistan, India's archrival, in opposing New Delhi's downgrading of Kashmir's semi-autonomy and continuing restrictions in the disputed region.
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters that "this issue was not raised and discussed," but that Xi apprised Modi of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Beijing earlier in the week.
"India-China relations are not predicated to a single issue," Gokhale said, adding that the latest developments in Kashmir were an internal matter of India.
Without going into details, Xi said in his opening remarks at the delegation-level talks that he had taken part in candid and in-depth discussions with Modi on various issues since his arrival Friday.
Gokhale said the two countries decided to set up a group at the finance ministers' level to discuss trade and investment issues, especially India facing a whopping $63 billion trade deficit with China.
According to India's Commerce Ministry, India's exports to China amounted to $13.33 billion in the 2018 financial year, compared with imports of $76.38 billion.
Xi and Modi met over dinner for more than two hours on Friday after the Indian prime minister took the Chinese president around an ancient temple and some other monuments that are part of UNESCO's world heritage sites in Mamallapuram.
Besides emphasizing the expansion of trade and investment, Modi and Xi resolved to work together in facing the challenges of radicalization and terrorism, Gokhale said.
There was an acknowledgement that both India and China were "very complex and very diverse countries," and that both will work together so that radicalization and terrorism does not affect their multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious societies, Gokhale said. He did not give details.
Tensions in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety, have escalated since August, when India downgraded the semi-autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir and imposed a security and communications lockdown.
China supported Pakistan in raising India's actions at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. China said India should not act unilaterally in Kashmir, a portion of which China also controls.
Xi arrived in India two days after hosting Pakistani Prime Minister Khan in Beijing.
India accuses neighboring Pakistan of arming and training insurgent groups fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charge. The two countries have fought two wars over the region's control since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.
A meeting between Xi and Modi in Wuhan, China, in April 2018 was preceded by tensions caused by a 10-week standoff between their countries' armed forces on the Bhutan border.
China claims some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory in India's northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas. Officials have met at least 20 times to discuss the competing border claims without making significant progress.
India and China fought a border war in 1962. 
India also is concerned about China's moves to build strategic and economic ties with its neighbors Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Xi will visit Nepal on Saturday.


President Putin bestows Order of Friendship on Filipino

Updated 22 November 2019

President Putin bestows Order of Friendship on Filipino

  • Honor highlights growing Philippines-Russia ties
  • Manila’s close ties to US put Philippines-Russia relations  on ice lately

MANILA: Each year, Russians celebrate National Unity Day on November 4 to commemorate Moscow’s liberation from Polish invaders in 1612.

This year, the day also marked a milestone in the history of the Philippines-Russia relations: For the first time the prestigious Russian Order of Friendship was conferred on a Filipino.

Armi Lopez Garcia, who serves as the honorary consul of Russia in the Philippines, was awarded with the Russian state decoration by President Vladimir Putin during the celebrations at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

Established on March 2, 1994, the Order of Friendship is given to Russians and foreign nationals who have made outstanding contributions in strengthening friendship and cooperation with Russia and its people.

At a reception hosted by the Russian ambassador to Manila, Igor Khovaev, at his residence in Makati City last week, Garcia said she still feels ecstatic about receiving the recognition from the Russian Federation

“I am really very happy and very honored. I think this is very timely,” Garcia told reporters at the reception. She pointed out that the “relationship between our two countries (today) is at its peak and the relationship President Rodrigo Duterte and President Vladimir Putin is very, very good.”

“I think this is a signal that we have to move forward,” she said.

Garcia, a Cebu-based entrepreneur who is chair of the Philippine-Russian Business Assembly, was appointed honorary consul in 2007. Back then, she said a lot of people, including her friends, asked her: “Why Russia?”. Her answer would always be, “why not?”

Garcia said that since 1996, long before her designation as honorary consul, she was involved in activities such as cultural events to promote friendship between the two countries. In fact, she was instrumental in the signing of the sisterhood agreement between the cities of Cebu and Vladivostok.

Garcia noticed that many Filipinos had a negative perception about the Russian people, which they apparently based only on movies that often depict Russians as villains. So, it dawned on her that she had to do something.

“The Russians are really very warm people, very educated and their values are like ours . . . In fact there are so many similarities between the Filipino values and the Russian values, and they are also practicing Christians. I feel that it is unfair that not too many people know about this,” she said.

Khovaev congratulated Garcia and said that “Filipinos have every reason to be proud of her” for making tangible contributions to make the two nations closer to each other.

“It’s a very significant, a really important event because she is the first Filipino to receive a high-level Russian state award in the Kremlin,” the ambassador said.

“She (Garcia) has made a great contribution to the strengthening of friendship and partnership of our two countries. She helped many Filipinos discover Russia, to understand that Russians and Filipinos have a lot in common. She did a lot to promote Russian culture. At the same time she helped many Russians . . . to understand better your country and culture, the mentality, the psychology of your people, your lifestyle,” Khovaev said.

The Russian envoy described Garcia as “a wonderful bridge connecting our two nations.”

“She’s doing a lot . . . in culture, education, and many other fields. So for us, Madam Garcia, she is our very, very close, very good friend, and our sister,” he said.

The conferment of the state award “is very symbolic.”

“It’s a very good signal, a clear message to all Filipinos that Russia is a friendly country. . . Russia wants to be a close friend and reliable partner of your country,” he said.

Khovaev said the decision to award such high-level state honor “is an exclusive right of the president of the Russian Federation.”

Philippine and Russia diplomatic ties were forged in 1976, but bilateral engagement was still “at a nascent stage in practically all areas of cooperation.” Relations, according to a foreign affairs official, could be best described as cordial albeit modest in scope and depth.

Experts say the reason for Manila’s cool relations with Moscow was because the Philippines is the United States’ oldest Asian ally and staunchest partner in the region.

But in 2016, when Duterte came into office, the tough-talking president announced his administration’s independent foreign policy that sought to broaden the horizons of friendship and cooperation with non-traditional partners. This opened a new chapter in the history of Philippines-Russia relations.

In October, during his second visit to Moscow, Duterte reaffirmed the Philippines’ strong commitment to building a robust and comprehensive partnership with Russia as both countries sowed the seeds of greater cooperation encouraged by his first Russia trip two years ago.

“In 2017, during my first visit to Russia, we successfully set the foundation for a closer bilateral cooperation,” Duterte said. He noted that since then, “we have seen remarkable progress in our engagement” and “have made historic firsts” in key strategic areas such as economic, defense and security, and military technical cooperation.

He cited the port visit of BRP Tarlac to Vladivostok in 2018, the first by a Philippine navy ship.

Also in 2018, the Philippines sent Col. Dennis Pastor to be its defense attaché to Russia — the first such appointment in more than 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two states.

This year, Moscow installed Col. Dmitry Nikitin as its first defense attaché to Manila.

Following Duterte’s trip to Russia in October, Khovaev announced that Putin had accepted the Philippine leader’s invitation for him to come to Manila.

While details have yet to be disclosed, it would be another milestone in Philippine-Russia relations.

During his meeting with Duterte last month, Putin described the Philippines as “a very important partner of Russia.”