Mamallapuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a two-and-a-half hour “pleasant conversation” over dinner Friday, resolving to further energise bilateral development partnership and insulating the overall ties from differences over contentious issues.
The meeting at the magnificent Shore temple complex under a sea-facing colourful tent in this coastal town continued much beyond the schedule time as both leaders, helped by two interpreters, touched upon a range of issues, including complex ones, over sumptuous local Tamil delicacies, sources said.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar described the engagement between Modi and Xi on the first day of the Informal summit as “highly productive”.
There was no official confirmation whether Modi and Xi discussed the Kashmir issue which somehow strained ties between the two countries and even overshadowed Xi’s trip to this coastal town. It is widely speculated that the issue found mention in the conversation between the two leaders over dinner.
In a tweet following the dinner, Modi said he was delighted to spend time with Xi. In the late afternoon, Modi and Xi sipped coconut water and engaged in casual interaction in a serene setting in the backdrop of 7th century rock-cut chariots of Pancha Ratha overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
Modi, dressed in a Tamil attire of ‘Veshti’ (dhoti), white shirt and an ‘angavastram’ (shawl), took Xi for a guided tour of the famous world heritage sites of Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna’s Butterball, the Pancha Ratha and Shore temple in this ancient temple town, kicking off the second informal summit between the two leaders.
“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,” the MEA spokesperson tweeted.
Xi’s visit to India comes two days after he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing. After the talks, a joint statement said China is paying “close attention” to the situation in Kashmir and that the issue should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter. The comments evoked sharp reaction from New Delhi.
Shortly after Xi’s aircraft touched down in Chennai, government sources said the two leaders are expected to issue some directions at the end of the summit Saturday. Officials on both sides said the focus of the Modi-Xi summit would be to move forward and chart a new pathway of development notwithstanding sharp differences between the two countries over several contentious issues.
Modi and Xi, assisted by one translator from each side, sat down for around 15 minutes at Pancha Ratha complex, an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture, and engaged in casual talks while sipping fresh coconut water – images reflecting warmth in personal chemistry between the two leaders of two emerging economies.
Modi hosted Xi for the private dinner at the Shore temple complex which was beautifully decorated with lights and flowers. Eight delegates from each side were also invited for the dinner and they sat in tables little away from Xi and Modi’s. Delicately selected authentic Tamil cuisines including vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes were served.
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. More P9