Mamallapuram: In the backdrop of 7th century rock-cut chariots of Pancha Ratha overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping sipped coconut water and engaged in casual interaction in a serene setting on Friday, sending signs of positive atmospherics in bilateral ties strained over Kashmir.
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,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Ravesh Kumar 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 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 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.
In the footage beamed by public broadcaster Doordarshan of the two leaders visiting the magnificent monuments, Modi was seen warmly explaining to the Chinese leader the historical significance of the monuments with the dazzling setting sun casting a soft glow over the iconic site.
Xi, wearing a white shirt and black trouser, was seen showing keen interest in the famous caves and stone sculptures in the heritage site in this coastal town which 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 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.
From Pancha Ratha, the two leaders visited the beautifully lit-up Shore temple – a symbol of cultural heritage of the Pallava dynasty. After spending some time together, Modi and Xi were joined by top delegates of both sides and all them witnessed a cultural programme presented by Kalakshetra society.
After the event, Modi hosted Xi for a 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 in the dinner.
At the site of Krishna’s butterball, a gigantic granite boulder sitting firmly on the slope of a hillock, Modi held Xi’s hands, reflecting warmth in their personal chemistry.
“Standing together and tall!,” said Kumar in a Twitter post.
Earlier, Xi arrived in Chennai to a red carpet welcome for his second informal summit with Modi amid a realisation a lot is riding on the bilateral ties strained over the hardline approach on the Kashmir issue by both sides.