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For India and China, uncertainty is the only sure thing about 2019

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If 2018 was the year China and India repaired their relations, this may be, for both countries, the year of uncertainty.

China heads into 2019 confronting myriad challenges, starting with a slowing economy and a bruising trade war with the United States that is nearing the 200-day mark. Beijing is approaching a year of important political anniversaries – culminating in the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in October – with a sense of uncertainty, in sharp contrast to the sense of confidence it exuded a year ago.

Indeed, India faces its own year of change, with the upcoming general elections that are likely to be held between April and May. So, for different reasons, Beijing and Delhi are invested in ensuring there are no major disruptions to bilateral relations. It was only two years ago that one such disruption plunged ties into a deep freeze with the unexpected border stand-off at Doklam, until the disengagement in August 2017.

Since then, however, there has been an unexpected rapprochement between the neighbours, culminating in the April “informal summit” in Wuhan between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To underline that it was no one-off, reports suggest Xi may soon travel to India for a second such meeting.

While the Doklam incident was certainly a wake-up call – and in one sense added to the urgency to fix relations – what isn’t often appreciated is that the recalibration in relations was, in fact, under way........

© South China Morning Post