PM Modi, Xi begin one-on-one talks on Day 2 of summit at Mamallapuram resort

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping resumed their one-on-one talks on the second day of the India-China informal summit here on Saturday after an extensive interaction on Friday during which they agreed to work together on issues ranging from trade to terrorism.

The two leaders are expected to spend three hours together at the Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury beachside resort overlooking the Bay of Bengal. They are initially meeting for a tete-a-tete, with only translators present, in a makeshift structure with large glass windows that is expected to last an hour and this will be followed by delegation-level talks with their aides.

Modi will also host a private lunch for Xi, which is expected to provide yet another opportunity for a one-on-one conversation. Both sides are expected to issue separate statements after the conclusion of the talks. People familiar with developments said both sides are coordinating on the text of their separate statements.

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.

Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters on Friday that the two leaders held “open and cordial” discussions over a dinner thatstretched 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.

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