Modi, Xi hold tête-à-tête on 2nd day of informal summit

Last Updated 12 October 2019, 05:23 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping commenced the second day of their “informal summit” with a tête-à-tête.

The two leaders met at a seaside resort in Kovalam in Tamil Nadu early on Saturday to continue the discussion they had started during the tour to the World Heritage Sites in nearby Mamallapuram, as well as over dinner till late in the evening on Friday.

They will later lead the delegation of officials of the respective governments for talks. PM Modi will be joined by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, India’s ambassador to China, Vikram Misri, and several other officers. President Xi’s delegation will comprise Ding Xuexiang, member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and He Lifeng, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and head of the National Development and Reform Commission.

Since the summit is informal, no pact is expected to be signed and no joint statement will be issued after the meeting. The two sides will separately issue statements.

Modi took Xi around for a tour to the World Heritage Sites in the ancient port city on Friday, soon after Chinese President arrived to hold the second “informal summit” with him.

Beijing’s repeated statements over the past few weeks echoing Islamabad and opposing New Delhi’s recent moves on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) struck jarring notes to the bonhomie that marked the relations between the two nations for almost one-and-a-half years after Modi and Xi held the first “informal summit” at Wuhan in central China in April 2018.

Yet the two leaders sipped coconut water together, held each other’s hands up and posed for cameras to send across the message that the “personal rapport” developed between them over the 17 meetings since 2014 remained intact.

Prime Minister and Chinese President on Friday also had a one-to-one discussion over dinner, which was expected to be over by 8:00 pm but went on till 10:00 pm.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told journalists late at night on Friday that Prime Minister and Chinese President had spent quality time over dinner and had discussed a range of issues.

The discussions on the first day focused broadly on the national visions and on ways to take the bilateral relations forward. Prime Minister spoke of the renewed mandate that he had received in the April-May parliamentary polls for economic development. Chinese President on his part said that he was looking forward to working closely with Prime Minister on all issues in the next four and a half years, Foreign Secretary said.

“Both leaders (Prime Minister and Chinese President) had a general sense that terrorism was a common challenge. They agreed to work together to see that radicalization, terrorism did not affect the fabric of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies,” said Gokhale.

China has been opposing the Modi government's August 5 decisions to strip J&K of its special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories – not only to stand by its “iron brother” Pakistan, but also because it was concerned over implication of the moves on its protracted boundary dispute with India.

Beijing perceived New Delhi's decisions on J&K as “unilateral” moves by the Modi government to change the status quo in the disputed territory and strengthen its claim – not only on areas of Kashmir under occupation of Pakistan, but also on 5180 sq kms of areas ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963 as well as on Aksai Chin – a disputed territory between India and China.

Foreign Secretary did not reveal if the issue of J&K came up during discussion between Prime Minister and Chinese President on Friday.

News has been conveying to Beijing over the past few weeks that India's moves on J&K were its “sovereign decisions”. New Delhi has been arguing that Islamabad was opposing the Modi government's recent decisions on J&K only because they “cut the very ground from under the feet of Pakistan” and created “obstacles” for the neighbouring country in continuing “sponsorship of cross border terrorism” against India.

Xi is scheduled to leave the ancient coastal city by 12:45 pm on Saturday and he is expected to depart for Kathmandu by 1:30 pm Modi too will leave for New Delhi soon after Xi departs.

(Published 12 October 2019, 05:23 IST)

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