A large part of the conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on Thursday revolved around enhancing trade ties, especially India’s concern over the growing trade deficit which is more than $40 billion in China’s favour, as well as China’s concerns on India’s “investment climate,” which includes connectivity, red tape, unhappiness over visa and security restrictions for Chinese businessmen.
According to officials, China hopes that Mr. Modi will announce the extension of “e-visa” for Chinese, who are on the list of countries excluded for now, after his talks with Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday.
Given the NDA government’s recent troubles with passing key reform bills and the Land Acquisition Bill, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said Mr. Modi’s conversation with Mr. Xi included “the challenges of reform.”
The two leaders met again immediately after their bilateral conversation at the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian, the monastery where Buddhist pilgrim Xuan Zang lived in the 7th century after returning from India where he travelled for18 years. Mr. Modi was also shown manuscripts prepared by Indian pilgrims who had lived here.
Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi posed for photographs and several handshakes even as they took a tour guided by the head monk of the pagoda. While the atmosphere was described by the Foreign Secretary as “very comfortable, building on the chemistry of their last meeting,” it was more visibly formal than other bilateral meetings Mr. Modi has had in the past few months, including with U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande.
Mr. Xi’s rare gesture of receiving Mr. Modi outside Beijing was remarked on during their conversation and mentioned in Chinese newspapers as a reception of the “highest level.” Mr. Modi presented a “Bodhi tree” sapling from Gaya, a traditional gift from India to several Buddhist countries, to the pagoda. In line with the theme, he presented President Xi replicas of Buddha relics dating to the 3rd century excavated in Gujarat.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister began his visit to Xian by seeing the famous terracotta warrior museum, dating back to 221 BC, which contains the mausoleum of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang. In the visitors book he called the Terracotta Army “a testimony to China’s civilisational achievements,” adding that he was deeply impressed with its preservation.