Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally chose Mamallapuram as the venue for his informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Pointing out that a recce was carried out in June, the official said several factors including historical significance and infrastructure were considered before selecting the place, famed for its rock-cut sculptures. During his visit in September 2014, Mr. Xi had visited Ahmedabad and the Sabarmati Ashram.
The MEA official denied reports in a section of the media that the selection of Mamallapuram had been done at the instance of China.
On Friday evening (between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. as per the schedule), Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi will spend time visiting three monuments — Arjuna’s Penance, Pancha Rathas and Shore Temple — for about an hour. The Prime Minister is expected to explain the special features of the monuments to the visiting dignitary. An official of the Archaeological Survey of India will also be available, the MEA official said.
This will be followed by a 30-minute-long cultural programme to be presented by the Kalakshetra Foundation. After a brief break, Mr. Modi will host a dinner for Mr. Xi. Asked about the menu at the dinner, the MEA official said that it would represent the cuisine of Tamil Nadu and have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
Given the character of the event, issues concerning the two Asian countries would be discussed in a “free-flowing” manner, the official explained, adding that the Chinese team would have almost 90 members. The delegation includes Wang Yi, Foreign Minister and State Councillor, Ding Xuexiang, Member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.
‘Six hours together’
For about 40 minutes on Saturday morning, Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi will have a one-on-one meeting before being joined by their respective delegations. The delegation-level part of the meeting will go on for 50 minutes. Subsequently, the Prime Minister will host a lunch for the Chinese President, who is expected to leave Chennai by about 1.30 p.m.
Between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, the two leaders are expected spend a total of six hours together, the official added.