Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sit down at the seventh-century Shore Temple complex overlooking the Bay of Bengal in Mamallapuram on Friday in an attempt to reconfigure ties strained by tough talk on the issue of Kashmir by both sides.
A red-carpet welcome awaits Xi when he arrives at the bustling ancient town around 5pm, with both the state and the central government agencies making all-out efforts to deck up the coastal town that had strong historical linkages with China's Fujian province.
However, it is not yet clear whether the two leaders would raise the major issue of Kashmir during their informal talks or choose to skirt the sticky topic.
Government sources told News18 PM Modi will not raise the issue of abrogation of Article 370 since it is an internal matter of India and a sovereign decision. However, in case President Xi wants more clarity regarding the same, the matter could be taken up.
There will be no statement or joint communique by both sides after the visit as it's an informal and unstructured meet like the one in Wuhan last year, so both governments would not have to show any results afterwards.
The two nations have complete diverging views on the Kashmir and the run up to the visit, announced just two days before Xi lands on Friday, has been dominated by China’s stance on Kashmir.
On Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry refused to discuss the Kashmir issue, only saying that China’s stand on it has remained consistent. This was a day after Xi met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing, sending a clear message that China continues to support Islamabad’s claims on Kashmir.
In a statement, China said the Kashmir issue should be peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements, drawing a sharp reaction from India as officials said it is not for other countries to comment on its internal affairs.
The two sides will now have to decide if they want to soft-peddle the issue or skit it altogether when several other pressing issues need to be discussed.
One of the major agendas of the meeting will be new and updated confidence building measures (CBMs) along the border as well as trade and investment exchanges. China is also keen on getting India in its corner against the trade actions taken by US President Donald Trump, which have shaken up the Chinese economy.
India is also expected to raise the issue of ballooning trade deficit in China's favour, said sources.
Chinese President's Itinerary
Officials said Xi will arrive at the Chennai airport around 2 pm and then head off to a luxury hotel. At 5 pm, Modi will accompany Xi to three iconic monuments of Mamallapuram — Arjuna's Penance, Panch Rathas, and the Shore temple. The two leaders then will witness a cultural programme at the temple complex. They will sit together in the lawns of the Shore temple and exchange views on charting a new roadmap of development and cooperation. Later, Modi will host a private dinner for Xi at the temple complex.
On Saturday, the two leaders will have a one-on-one meeting at the Fisherman's Cove resort to be followed by delegation-level talks. Modi will later host a lunch for Xi, and the Chinese leader will leave for Chennai airport at 12:45 pm.
All the monuments in Mamallapuram on the itinerary have been spruced up while colourful gates have been erected along the routes from Chennai to the coastal city. A grand ornamental arch to welcome the two leaders has been prominently put up at the entrance to Mamallapuram from the East Coast Road. Traditional arches made of banana trees and sugarcane have been put up in front of the hotel where Xi will stay.
An unprecedented security cover has been thrown in and around Mamallapuram that has inconvenienced people in the town as well as tourists.
The first informal summit between Modi and Xi took place in picturesque Chinese lake city Wuhan in April 2018, months after a 73-day-long face off between the armies of the two countries in Doklam tri-juction in Sikkim sector raised fears of a war between the Asian giants.
In the summit, Modi and Xi decided to issue "strategic guidance" to their militaries to strengthen communication and build trust and understanding.