Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands and spoke briefly at a formal dinner for G20 leaders in Bali on Tuesday – their first face-to-face encounter in public since the start of the military standoff in Ladakh more than two years ago.

Footage from the Indonesian presidential secretariat’s official YouTube channel showed Modi seated and conversing with US secretary of state Antony Blinken when Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan stopped nearby to speak with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Modi was seen getting up from his seat and shaking hands with Xi, who smiled. Modi, flanked by an interpreter, then spoke to Xi for a few minutes. Both leaders, who were wearing batik shirts, were soon joined by external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Several people gathered around the two leaders and began capturing the moment with their mobile phone cameras.

Neither was there any word from Indian officials on the encounter at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, nor did the Chinese side release a readout.

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The Indian and Chinese leaders had avoided each other the last time they were at an in-person multilateral meeting – the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan during September 15-16. People familiar with the matter said both sides had not made any effort for a formal bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

India-China ties have been at an all-time low since the start of the standoff in Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). A brutal clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020 resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops – the first fatalities along the LAC since 1975.

China has said the border tensions should be separated from the overall bilateral relationship, while Jaishankar has consistently said that India-China ties cannot be normalised till there is peace and tranquillity on the border.

By Shadab

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