New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed concern over the issues of terrorism and radicalisation in the "nearly five hours of quality time and discussion" they spent together in Mahabalipuram, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a late-night media briefing on Friday.
"The two leaders held detailed discussions on their respective national vision," said Gokhale. He added that Modi and Xi also discussed trade-related issues, including how to enhance bilateral trade volume; they also deliberated on the trade deficit and identified investment areas.
Gokhale said the issue of terror was taken up in the mostly one-to-one discussions as well. "There was an acknowledgement that both the countries are very complex and very diverse. The two leaders said that these are large countries and that radicalisation is a matter of concern to both and that both would work together so that radicalisation and terrorism did not affect our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic multi-religious societies," he said.
According to the foreign secretary, Xi said he was looking forward to working with Modi on all issues.
Gokhale said both leaders share a very personal rapport, as seen from their interaction during the temple tour of Mahabalipuram on Friday evening. After Xi touched down in Chennai in the afternoon, he was accorded a red-carpet welcome in the state capital. He then made his way to the coastal town of Mahabalipuram, where the visiting dignitary was received by Modi.
In the backdrop of the seventh-century rock-cut chariots of Pancha Ratha overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Modi and Xi sipped coconut water and engaged in casual interaction, sending signs of positive atmospherics in bilateral ties strained over the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
Modi, dressed in the Tamil attire of a 'veshti' (dhoti), white shirt and an 'angavastram' (shawl), took Xi around Mahabalipuram on a guided tour of the world heritage sites of Arjuna's Penance, the Pancha Rathas, and the Shore temple, kicking off the second informal summit between them.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, who was also present at the joint briefing where no questions were taken, said Modi and Xi concluded a "highly productive day with a pleasant conversation over a long dinner". The two leaders continued their exchange of views on deepening of the India-China partnership, he said in a tweet.
Concluding a highly productive day with a pleasant conversation over a long dinner PM @narendramodi & Chinese President Xi continued their exchange of views on deepening of the India-China partnership over a breathtaking Kalakshetra cultural performance followed by dinner. pic.twitter.com/bDwiFOX450— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) October 11, 2019
"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," Kumar earlier said in another tweet.
Xi's visit came two days after he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing, after which a joint statement said that China is paying "close attention" to the situation in Kashmir and that the issue should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the United Nations Charter. The comments evoked a sharp reaction from New Delhi.
Shortly after Xi's aircraft touched down in Chennai, government sources said the two leaders are expected to issue directions at the end of the summit on Saturday as they did after the first edition of new format of engagement in Chinese city of Wuhan last year.
Officials on both sides said the focus of the summit would be to move forward and chart a new pathway of development notwithstanding sharp differences between the two countries over several contentious issues.
Xi, wearing a white shirt and black trousers, showed keen interest in the famous caves and stone sculptures as Modi guided him around Mahabalipuram that 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 the Pancha Ratha complex, an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture, and engaged in casual talks while sipping coconut water — images reflecting warmth in personal chemistry between the two leaders of two emerging economies.
Overlooking the Bay of Bengal is the majestic Shore Temple. One of the most iconic landmarks, the Shore Temple exemplifies the greatness and grandness of Indian culture.Here are some pictures... pic.twitter.com/ICDEWsZI30— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 11, 2019
From there, the two visited the beautifully lit-up Shore temple — a symbol of cultural heritage of the Pallava dynasty. After spending time together, Modi and Xi were joined by top delegates of both sides and all of them witnessed a cultural programme presented by the Kalakshetra society.
After the event, Modi hosted Xi for a private dinner at the Shore temple complex. Eight delegates from each side were also invited for the dinner and they sat in tables set up a little away from those of Xi and Modi's. Delicately selected authentic Tamil cuisines, including vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, were served.
Xi's arrival in Chennai brought with the realisation that a lot is riding on the bilateral ties strained over the hardline approach on the Kashmir issue by both sides. Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, and Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri welcomed him at the Chennai airport.
"Welcome to India, President Xi Jinping!" Modi tweeted, shortly after the Chinese leader arrived on an Air China Boeing 747 aircraft, accompanied by a 90-member delegation including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Polit Bureau member of Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party Ding Xuexiang, and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
A brief cultural ceremony reflecting Tamil Nadu's cultural heritage was organised at the airport to welcome the visiting leader.
On Saturday morning, Modi and Xi will have a comprehensive one-on-one meeting to be followed by delegation level talks. Both sides will then issue separate statements on outcome of the summit.
"Both sides know that a lot is riding on the relationship and this is reflected in the summit being held on schedule despite speculations of its postponement in recent weeks," said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
Ahead of the two-day summit, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong on Thursday said that a "new set of consensus", including "guiding principles" on giving a new direction to the bilateral ties.
(With inputs from PTI)