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Mahabalipuram, Modi & Xi: What to Expect From the Informal Meet at Coastal Temple Town

It is expected that the two leaders will build the ground for working out more confidence building measures (CBMs) that will be announced later this year or early next year.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:October 11, 2019, 6:02 PM IST
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Mahabalipuram, Modi & Xi: What to Expect From the Informal Meet at Coastal Temple Town
India, Tamil Nadu, Kancheepuram, Mahabalipuram, View of Pancha Rathas temple. (Photo by: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images)

Mahabalipuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive Chinese President Xi Jinping in the backdrop of a 6th century engraved boulder called Arjuna's Penance at Mahabalipuram for the second informal summit between the two leaders after Wuhan. The carvings depict the descent of the sacred river Bagirathi, part of Ganges, from the heavens above.

The spot has been chosen as the depiction of the river can remind the leaders of the shared resources between the two neighbours. For instance, the Brahmaputra river which has often in the past been a bone of contention - be it China's dam construction that concern the lower riparian state India or the temporary halt in sharing of hydrological data that was seen around the Doklam stand-off.

And that's not the only significance the setting that small port town Mahabalipuram holds. This was a very important route of trade even 1,300 years ago that links India and China. Evidence for this has been found in Chinese coins and pottery discovered in Tamil Nadu.

The other monuments that President Xi will be shown around include the set of five monolithic structures - Panch Rathas. Build by the Pallava dynasty - the same dynasty to which a revered icon in China, Bodhidharma is believed to be from.

The third prince of the King of Kancheepuram is believed to have taken what was called Chan Buddhism also known as Zen Buddhism to South East Asia. Mahabalipuram is hoping this connect will help it attract many tourists from not just China but also Japan where Zen Buddhism is widely followed.

The ties that date back many centuries, as Mahabalipuram will remind both sides, should be handled in a manner that differences don't become disputes. This was also decided in Wuhan and both sides believe that to some extent the mechanisms evolved have worked on the ground in resolving boundary issues that crop up due to a difference of perception of the LAC.

It is expected that the two leaders will build the ground for working out more confidence building measures (CBMs) that will be announced later this year or early next year.

Considering Mahabalipuram is a port town with a history of trade ties, it becomes an apt setting for discussing trade issues as well. India will express concern over the trade deficit and demand more market access for India products like rapeseed oil and basmati rice.

China could discuss RCEP, a trade agreement with ASEAN countries being led by China. India is worried about Chinese products flooding Indian markets.

But while bilateral issues remain the focus, could this be overshadowed by the 'K' word. President Xi held a meeting with Pakistan PM Imran Khan just two days before landing in India. The joint statement mentioned resolving Kashmir through not just bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan but also UN resolutions and contention India has vehemently contested. Government sources told News 18 that if Chinese President Xi seeks clarity, PM Modi will offer one, however India will not raise the abrogation of Article 370 itself as it's a sovereign decision pertaining to India's internal matter.

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