New Delhi: 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 the bustling ancient town of 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 here around 5 pm, 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.
Ahead of the two-day summit, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong said that a "new set of consensus", including "guiding principles" on giving a new direction to the bilateral ties, are expected from the engagement.
The summit will take place amid a renewed strain in ties between the two countries over the Kashmir issue. A joint statement issued after talks between Xi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said China is paying "close attention" to the situation in Kashmir and that it should be be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in a reaction said India's consistent and clear position has been that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country and China is well aware of New Delhi's position.
Government sources have made it clear that like the first informal summit in Wuhan, there will be no statement or joint communique by both sides after the visit as it's an informal and unstructured meet. They also said that Modi will not raise the issue of abrogation of Article 370 as it is an internal matter of India and a sovereign decision. However, in case Xi wants more clarity regarding the same, the matter could be taken up.
The summit also comes in the backdrop of China's growing trade friction with the US. Both Modi and Xi are likely to explore ways of expanding trade and business ties. India is expected to raise the issue of ballooning trade deficit in China's favour, said the sources, adding that political relations, trade and ways to maintain peace and tranquility along the nearly 3,500-km Sino-India border will be a major focus area in the talks.
Ties between India and China came under some strain after India announced the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated the state into two Union territories in August. China criticised India's decision and its Foreign Minister Wang Yi even raised it at the UN General Assembly last month.
Days later, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said Beijing was working for Kashmiris to help them get their fundamental rights and justice, comments which have not gone down well with New Delhi.
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.
(With inputs from PTI)