Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Chennai to grand welcome.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Chennai to grand welcome.

MAMALLAPURAM (TN): Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Chennai to a grand welcome on Friday, a visit that comes soon after the recent episode of turbulence in bilateral ties over India’s decision to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and reorganise the state into two union territories.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami, Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Assembly P Dhanapal welcomed the Chinese leader, who has come to India on a nearly 24-hour visit for his second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A brief cultural ceremony was organised to welcome the visiting leader. The venue of the summit, the ancient coastal town of Mamallapuram, about 50 km from the Tamil Nadu capital, is significant as it has strong trade and cultural links with China’s Fujian province.

A large number of artistes lined up at the airport waving colourful flags, beating drums and dancing to traditional music to welcome the influential Chinese leader. Xi is accompanied by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. Both are scheduled to hold separate talks with their Indian counterparts S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Officials on both sides said the focus of the Modi-Xi summit would be to insulate bilateral trade and development cooperation between the emerging economic powerhouse from differences on Kashmir and the vexed boundary issue.

Notwithstanding the strained ties, the state and the central government agencies have left no stone unturned to accord a warm and grand welcome to Xi. This temple town has been decorated with flowers and colourful lights and historical sites to be visited by the Chinese leader have been spruced up.

The two leaders will hold talks at the 7th century Shore Temple complex overlooking the Bay of Bengal in Mamallapuram in an informal setting in the evening without aides or any agenda with a focus on charting a new roadmap for overall expansion of ties.

Ahead of the two-day summit, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong told PTI that a new set of consensus including guiding principles on giving a new direction to the bilateral ties are expected from engagement.

Xi’s visit comes two days after he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Bejing. A China-Pakistan joint statement issued after talks said China is paying close attention” to the situation in Kashmir and that the issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter.

The comments angered India as it asserted that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country and China is well aware of New Delhi’s position. Officials said there will be at least five occasions when Modi and Xi will have opportunities to engage on an one-on-one setting on Friday and Saturday. This is the second edition of the informal summit between Modi and Xi. The first informal between the two leaders was held in picturesque Chinese lake city of Wuhan in April 2018, months after a 73-day face off between the armies of the two countries in Doklam tri-junction raised fears of a war between the two Asian giants.

At 5 pm, Modi will take Xi to three iconic monuments of Mamallapuram — Arjuna’s Penance, Panch Rathas and the Shore temple. Then the two leaders will witness a cultural programme at the temple complex.

The two leaders will sit together in the lawns of the Shore temple and exchange views on charting a new roadmap of development and cooperation. The prime minister will host a private dinner for Xi at the Shore temple complex. The menu is likely to have a host of sumptuous traditional dishes, officials said. On Saturday, the two leaders will hold one-on-one talks at the Fisherman’s Cove resort. This will be followed up by delegation-level talks. After the talks, Modi will host a lunch for Xi, and the Chinese leader will leave for Chennai airport at 12.45 pm, they said. PTI

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