Trade, terror, top focus of day-one of Modi-Xi meet in Mamallapuram

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their visit to Pancha Rathas complex in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. Photograph:( ANI )

WION Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India Oct 12, 2019, 09.16 AM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

Trade and terror were the top focus on the first day of the second India-China informal summit as leaders of Asia's two largest countries met in the coastal town of Mamallapuram in Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The first day of the informal summit saw, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping spending five hours of "quality time". PM Modi showed Chinese President thousands of years old UNESCO world heritage sites of Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna's butterball, Panch Rathas and Shore Temple which was followed by a cultural extravaganza that lasted for two hours. 

The one-on-one dinner lasted for more than two hours wherein which both the leaders discussed their national vision and governance priorities. Terror and trade was the top focus during the first day.

On trade, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said, "There were discussions on trade-related issues and economic issues and trying to identify areas for investment which two countries can encourage and how to enhance trade volume and trade value which include the issue of trade deficit and unbalance trade."

On terror, India and China discussed the "challenges both countries face on account of terrorism. Both leaders said that these are large countries and radicalisation is a matter of concern for both and that both will work together to see that radicalisation and terrorism did not impact the fabric of our multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious societies and a general sense that this was a common challenge and we will work together," Gokhale added.

PM Modi received President Xi at the Arjuna's Penance in traditional south Indian attire, veshti (Dhoti worn in the South Indian way) and angavastram, a South Indian garment draped over the shoulder. 

Both leaders were seen talking to each other with PM Modi explaining Xi the history of the sites. 

Addressing the media, Foreign Secretary said the visuals at the separate sites reflect the "personal rapport" they have built in the backdrop of 17 meetings since 2014. 

Gokhale said, "President and PM during that tour of the monuments spoke of the historical and trading links between the southern part of India, particularly Tamil Nadu under Pallava and Chola dynasties and the eastern coast of China, particularly Fujian province." 

PM Modi also explained the significance of world heritage sites and highlighted the "harmony between man and nature" at Arjuna's Penance.

They shook hands five times during the entire period and drank coconut water at the Panch Ratha site where they sat for 15 minutes.

PM Modi also gifted President Xi, Nachiarkoil, branched Annam lamp and Thanjavur Painting of dancing Saraswathi. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in Chennai on Friday afternoon with PM Modi tweeting in Mandarin, Tamil and English to welcome him. This is the third visit of the Chinese president to India since 2014. 

In 2014, he visited Ahmadabad and in 2016 he visited Goa for the BRICS summit.

Xi is accompanied by 90 officials including top Chinese leadership which include Ding Xuexiang who an important aide of President and current General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Yang Jiechi Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and He Lifeng, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission. 

President Xi met eight top Indian officials including External affair minister S Jaishankar, National security adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign security Vijay Gokhale, joint secretary in PMO Gopal Baglay, Indian envoy to China Vikram Misri at the shore temple. 

The dinner hosted by PM for the visiting leader in the backdrop of historic Shore temple at the Mamallapuram beach had Tamil delicacies both non-vegetarian and vegetarian on the menu.

On Saturday morning, they will again spend time together and around 11 am before the delegation-level talks, they will be making address media.

Mamallapuram was chosen as the spot for PM Modi himself and process for the informal summit started in June 2019. India had sent its first recce team in June to the town. 

While history played an important role, the fact that PM Modi is keen to have big summits outside national capital also played the clincher. Since its an informal summit, no joint statement is expected but both sides will issue separate statements in a coordinated manner.

Story highlights

The one-on-one dinner lasted for 150 minutes or more than two hours in which both the leaders discussed their national vision and governance priorities. Terror and trade was the top focus during the first day.