For all the pomp and circumstance, the only thing that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to China will be remembered for will be his plain-speaking. And this is by no means a small achievement.

For years, Indian political leaders have gone to China and said what the Chinese wanted to hear. Modi changed all that when he openly "stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realizing full potential of our partnership" and "suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations."

In his speech at Tsinghua University, Modi went beyond the rhetorical flourishes of Sino-Indian cooperation and pointed out the need to resolve the border dispute and in the interim, clarify the Line of Actual Control, to "ensure that our relationships with other countries do not become a source of concern for each other." This is a significant shift in Indian traditional defensiveness vis-a-vis China and should put the relationship on a firmer footing.