MAMALLAPURAM – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Chennai to a grand welcome on Friday, a visit that comes soon after the recent episode of turbulence in bilateral ties over India’s decision to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and reorganise the state into two union territories.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami, Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Assembly P Dhanapal welcomed the Chinese leader, who who has come to India on a nearly 24-hour visit for his second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A brief cultural ceremony was organised to welcome the visiting leader.
Xi’s visit comes two days after he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Bejing.
A China-Pakistan joint statement issued after talks said China is paying close attention” to the situation in Kashmir and that the issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping took a stroll and sipped fresh coconut water in a relaxed informal setting, creating positive atmospherics in bilateral ties strained over the Kashmir issue.
Dressed in a Tamil attire of Veshti (dhoti), white shirt and an angavastram, Modi played the perfect host and took Xi for a guided tour of the famous world heritage sites of Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna’s Butterball, the Pancha Ratha and Shore temple.
The prime minister explained to the Chinese leader the historical significance of the monuments and Xi, wearing a white shirt and black trouser, was seen showing keen interest in the seventh century monuments built during the Pallava dynasty in this coastal town which had historical links with China’s Fujian province.
Modi and Xi, assisted by one translator from each side, sat down for around 15 minutes at Pancha Ratha complex, an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture, and engaged in intense talks while sipping coconut water – images reflecting warmth in personal chemistry between the two leaders of two emerging economies.
From Pancha Ratha, the two leaders visited the beautifully lit-up Shore temple – a symbol of cultural heritage of the Pallava dynasty. After spending some time together, Modi and Xi were joined by top delegates of both sides.
Minutes later, the two leaders witnessed a cultural performance on the backdrop of the Shore temple.
The venue of the summit, the ancient coastal town of Mamallapuram, about 50 km from the Tamil Nadu capital, is significant as it has strong trade and cultural links with China’s Fujian province.
A large number of artistes lined up at the airport waving colourful flags, beating drums and dancing to traditional music to welcome the influential Chinese leader.
This is the second edition of the informal summit between Modi and Xi. The first informal between the two leaders was held in picturesque Chinese lake city of Wuhan in April 2018, months after a 73-day face off between the armies of the two countries in Doklam tri-junction raised fears of a war between the two Asian giants.
Xi is accompanied by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. Both are scheduled to hold separate talks with their Indian counterparts S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Officials on both sides said the focus of the Modi-Xi summit would be to insulate bilateral trade and development cooperation between the emerging economic powerhouse from differences on Kashmir and the vexed boundary issue.
Notwithstanding the strained ties, the state and the central government agencies have left no stone unturned to accord a warm and grand welcome to Xi. This temple town has been decorated with flowers and colourful lights and historical sites to be visited by the Chinese leader have been spruced up.