Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday took Chinese President Xi Jinping on a tour of a seaside temple and monument complex as part of an informal summit against the backdrop of strained ties over the Kashmir.
It is the second informal summit between Xi and Modi since they met in China’s Wuhan in April last year, and is aimed at building a rapport between the leaders and providing “guidance” for bilateral ties, according to diplomats.
Soon after he was received by state officials at the Chennai airport, the Chinese leader was treated to cultural performances on the runway showcasing local Tamil dance and music.
Xi later reached the coastal town of Mamallapuram, where Modi welcomed him and took him on a tour of three ancient rock monuments and a shore temple dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries.
Modi was seen in visuals explaining to Xi the architecture and significance of the Hindu monuments, which are classed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The symbolic tour was organised also to highlight the ancient trade links between China and the Pallava dynasty kings who once ruled the coastal region.
The leaders held a series of brief conversations at the complex through the evening and watched another cultural performance before sitting down for dinner.
“The free flowing nature of the informal summit at the Unesco World Heritage Site will continue and deepen contacts at the highest level and guide the future trajectory of India-China relationship,” foreign office spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Twitter.
A key one-on-one meeting between Xi and Modi and delegation-level talks will take place today morning.
No signing of documents was expected to take place.
The summit takes place after the two sides exchanged sharp words over India’s decision to remove Kashmir’s special status, and as a minor encounter between Indian and Chinese patrolling troops in a disputed area of Ladakh in the Kashmir region.
India and China dispute several sections along their ill-defined 3,500km border, most of which runs along the Himalayan range.
The two countries fought a war over their border in 1962.
India said any change to Kashmir’s status was an “internal affair” after Xi said he was watching the situation closely and assured Pakistan of Chinese support for its core interests.
Beijing had also criticised India at last month’s UN General Assembly over its decision to scrap special status to Kashmir and split it into two federally-administered territories.
Trade, another irritant in ties, will be another key area in the talks.
New Delhi is expected to raise the issue of a huge trade deficit of over $50bn in favour of China and push for greater access for its firms to the Chinese market.
Terrorism and border issues will also be discussed during the summit talks.
Both sides are expected to agree to new security measures along their contested border and may issue separate statements after the talks, government sources told broadcaster NDTV.
After leaving talks with Modi, Xi will head to Nepal for a two-day state visit, in what is the first such visit by a Chinese leader in 23 years.
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