Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Chennai on October 11 for the second “informal summit” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi and Beijing announced on October 9.
The meeting between the two leaders, that follows the Wuhan summit last April that reset ties, is expected to enhance bilateral cooperation.
Just hours after the two sides announced the visit, differences grew over comments by President Xi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Kashmir, made in Beijing, where Mr. Xi said that China “is concerned about the situation in Kashmir”, according to a report on Chinese official news agency Xinhua.
“China supports the Pakistani side in safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and hopes that the parties will resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue,” the report added. In a separate “joint Press release” issued by the Pakistan government, the Chinese government reportedly referred to UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, a day after it had spoken of a bilateral settlement to the issue.
In a sharp reaction to the statements, the government reasserted that Jammu and Kashmir is an “integral part of India”.
“China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India,” said the official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
Speaking about the agenda for talks between PM Modi and President Xi on October 11 and 12, government officials said India would not discuss the government’s move to amend Article 370, and would broadly focus building on the Wuhan “consensus” for better ties.
“The forthcoming Chennai Informal Summit will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to continue their discussions on overarching issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening India-China Closer Development Partnership,” a common statement issued by the MEA and Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Speaking about another possible source of tension at a press conference in Beijing, Chinese Vice-Minister and former Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui said that Beijing doesn’t recognise the Him Vijay mountain combat exercises in what he called the “disputed Eastern sector”.
“As far as we know the so-called military exercises is not a fact, it is not true. Second, the region you mentioned is a sensitive region and we don’t want to hear that reference,” Mr. Luo said in reply to a question about whether China had protested the exercises, and added that the two leaders will build on the “personal chemistry” achieved in Wuhan. “Both the leaders have strategic vision and global perspective… So for them to sit down in Chennai and discuss global and regional affairs shows that the dragon and the elephant can work together, (and) that we can have bilateral relations and practical cooperation between the two countries,” said Mr. Luo.
No specific outcomes, or agreements are expected after the Modi-Xi meet in Chennai, said officials, but the two leaders will hold talks on bilateral issues including enhancing trade, resolving the boundary dispute and possible new Confidence Building Measures (CBM); regional issues including Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific policy, terrorism and other global and bilateral trade issues.
The meetings will also lead to several other high-level exchanges, including the delayed boundary talks between Special Representatives as well as annual India-China anti-terrorism “Hand-in-Hand” exercises in December this year.
Both leaders will meet again within two weeks at the East Asian and RCEP summit in Thailand, and the 16-nation FTA will be on the table for talks, along with bilateral trade issues. “We have seen some movement on the regulatory and market access fronts, but the trade deficit remains a matter of concern,” an official said.
Mr. Xi will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Special representative Yang Jiechi, and PM Modi will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval on some of their discussions, and are expected to also hold talks without any other officials present, as they did in Wuhan.
According to the programme, the two leaders will hold a series of discussions at a hotel in Mamallapuram, about an hour away from President Xi’s hotel in Chennai. On Friday, Mr. Xi will land in Chennai shortly before 2 pm. He will join the PM for sightseeing in the Mamallapuram temple complex, including the Shore Temple, the Pancha Rathas (five chariots) and Arjuna’s penance monuments. The will have dinner along the beach after a cultural performance by Kalakshetra. President Xi will return to Chennai that evening, but return on Saturday morning for another meeting with Mr. Modi followed by Lunch, and then will fly out to Kathmandu around 2pm.
The choice of Mamallapuram and Chennai had been made due to several reasons, officials aware of the planning said. PM Modi had given “clear guidance” that it would have to be held outside the national capital, and at a historical place, given President Xi’s “interest in history and culture”. Tamil Nadu has a number of historical connections to China, including Tamil prince Bodhidharma, who is credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to China, the visit of 7th century traveller Hsuan-tsang to Kanchipuram, and trading expeditions from the Pallava kingdom to the South east coast of China.