Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the ongoing informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping marked a new era in ties between the two countries. The PM said this in his opening remarks as two leaders resumed their talks on the second day of the summit in Tamil Nadu’s Mamallapuram .
Xi, in his response called the summit a memorable experience. “You and I had engaged in candid conversations like friends, heart to heart discussions on bilateral relations,” he said. The Chinese president added, “We are really overwhelmed by your hospitality. Me and my colleagues have felt that very strongly. This will be a memorable experience for me and us.”
The talks between the two delegations were preceded by a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders at the Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury beachside resort overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Modi received Xi when he drove in a motorcade from his hotel in Chennai to the Fisherman’s Cove. They then drove in golf carts to the venue of their discussions, located a short distance from the beach.
Among those present in the delegation talks were National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
The delegation talks will be followed by lunch, which is expected to provide yet another opportunity for a one-on-one conversation, before Xi flies to Nepal.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters that on Friday the two leaders held “open and cordial” discussions over a dinner that stretched for two and a half hours, almost double the scheduled duration. “This was quality time that the two leaders spent together one on one,” he said.
The two leaders discussed their respective national visions and governance priorities, and Xi said he was looking forward to working very closely with Modi “on all issues”, according to Gokhale.
Among the issues discussed were trade-related matters, India’s trade deficit and the threat posed by radicalisation and terrorism. “Both leaders said these were large countries and that radicalisation was a matter of concern to both and that both would work together to see that radicalisation and terrorism did not affect the fabric of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies,” he said.
That the private dinner that capped the first day of the second informal summit lasted more than double the scheduled duration was an indication that both sides were making efforts to work out differences, including over China’s strong support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, that have recently strained ties.
Even before the dinner, Modi and Xi had a conversation, with only their translators present, at Pancha Ratha, a monument with five chariots hewn out of solid rock, that lasted almost 15 minutes. They continued their conversation as they strolled near the Shore Temple, the last of the monuments they visited at Mamallapuram.
Xi travelled to India after hosting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, whom he had told that China was closely following the Kashmir issue and that Beijing would back Islamabad on protecting its core interests.
An angry New Delhi had shot back by saying that China was aware of India’s position that Kashmir is an integral part of the country and that India didn’t expect other countries to comment on its internal affairs.
The exchange had triggered speculation about how much the Kashmir issue could linger like a dark cloud over the unstructured interactions in Mamallapuram but people familiar with developments said both sides were looking to the summit to produce “some new directions from the top” that will build on the strategic guidance that flowed from the Wuhan summit.