Trade issues, boundary disputes and multilateral cooperation are expected to dominate the “informal summit” at Mamallapuram as the seaside resort on the outskirts of Chennai prepares to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and Saturday.
Mr. Xi will land in Chennai past 2 p.m. — about two hours after Mr. Modi. He will head to the Mamallapuram temple complex for an evening with Mr. Modi, which will include a tour of the monuments and a dance performance at the Shore Temple at sunset, followed by dinner. On Saturday, the talks will be more structured and will include time for a “one-on-one” meeting, followed by delegation-level talks.
“The objective is to ensure that the communication between the leaders is one which is routinised, easy going and indicates that President Xi Jinping and PM Modi are getting down to business in an informal way, not simply at a structured meeting of a [limited time] where prepared statements are read out in a much more practical way,” a senior official briefing the media about the expectations from the summit had said.
Both leaders would be received by Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, and MEA officials, including Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri.
Security forces have been deployed along the entire East Coast Road leading to the coastal resort, while special coast guard patrols will monitor the beaches and coastline. Journalists covering the event will be sequestered at a media hotel nearby, according to the arrangements that Mr. Palaniswami personally inspected on Thursday afternoon.
No joint statement is expected after the talks, nor have any MoUs or Agreements been prepared as outcomes of the summit, officials involved in the planning of the summit said. They suggested that the Indian side will hope to keep discussions over the issue of Kashmir at a minimum.
Much will depend on the “personal chemistry” between the two leaders, say officials, who expect that the discussions over purely bilateral concerns and joint initiatives will be much smoother than those over contentious issues involving other countries, including ties with the U.S., India-Pakistan tensions, and Jammu and Kashmir .
In terms of specifics, the talks on bilateral trade will focus on India’s continuing worry over the trade deficit. According to the latest figures, the trade deficit in China’s favour reduced last year to about $53 billion, but officials hope to bring it much lower by ensuring China provides market access to more Indian companies.
Mr. Modi will also seek guarantees from Mr. Xi ahead of the RCEP free trade agreement signing on November 1, where India still has last-minute hesitations over the flooding of the Indian market by Chinese goods.
In particular the two leaders will discuss Indian security concerns over including Chinese tech giant Huawei in its 5G trials due in the next few weeks, even as reports indicated that India had agreed to allow a Huawei ‘demo’ at a Mobile and telecom conference in Delhi next week.
Apart from trade, officials hope the leaders will guide negotiations to be held by the special representatives on boundary talks as well as other high-level exchanges. in the near future. A series of defence, border management and counter-terrorism related exchanges are also expected to follow the Chennai summit.
While India has opposed President Xi’s pet project, the Belt and Road Initiative over territorial concerns in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, the two leaders are expected to discuss speeding up road and communication infrastructure to the east, along the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) route.
Finally, officials expect that the India-China “plus one” programme that saw Afghan diplomats being trained jointly in New Delhi and Beijing last year, will be extended to other capacity-building programmes in Afghanistan and other parts of the subcontinent as well.