CHENNAI CONNECT … Xi and Modi take bilateral relations forward, Kashmir untouched at discussions

CHENNAI: The two-day informal summit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, aided by officials from behind, conclude in a re-assertion of the friendship between the two and between the two nations. Xi invited the PM to China for the next informal summit – the third in a row, the first having been held in Wuhan in April last year.
Xi asserted that the “dance of India and China” should continue for mutual benefit.

The informal meetings have no special agenda. The two sides discussed matters in a spirit of friendship and conforming to the existing practice of holding back contentious issues like the border row and seizure of land by China from India in the 1962 War. They concentrated attention on issues like the present trade imbalance between the two nations–   China having a much larger share of the trade; the deficit being of $57 billion against a total trade volume of $96crore. Xi agreed to find ways to change this scenario for the better.

Two key areas in which India would get space in China, following the current discussions, are IT and pharmaceuticals. In both these, India has a name, and China lags behind India.

Notably, Kashmir did not come for discussions. This, despite the good ties Pakistan has with China. China sees Kashmir as a bilateral dispute, and does not want to interfere in India’s decisions like abrogation of Article 370 etc. This has come as a big relief to India.

Xi left Chennai Sunday for onward journey by flight to Nepal, before returning to Beijing. China and Nepal are edging closer in recent years, though Nepal was among India’s closest allies in the past.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday agreed to set up a new mechanism for issues relating to trade and investment and felt the two countries should cooperate on important regional and global issues. President Xi said that China is ready to take concrete measures to reduce trade deficit, Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale explained to the media on the outcome of the second informal summit. 

Building on the ‘Wuhan spirit’, the prime minister spoke of “Chennai connect” for a new era of cooperation between India and China. A new mechanism will be set up for issues relating to trade and investment, Gokhale said.

President Xi has assured PM Modi that India’s concerns over Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will be discussed. Both Modi and Xi emphasized on importance of having a rules-based global trading system. Both leaders felt the two countries should cooperate on important regional and global issues. Xi also talked about the need for enhancing defence cooperation. 

Both Xi and Modi said the two countries would need to look to the future. Both countries should work together to deal with the challenge of terrorism. 
Altogether, Prime Minister Modi had around five-and-half hours of one-on-one talks with Chinese President Xi over two days. This was followed by delegation level talks, majorly participated by Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

The border issue, as usual, remained on the back-burner. There was no discussions on this, per se. The two nations have disputes in three sectors – eastern Arunachal Pradesh, middle Uttarakhand and western Jammu and Kashmir. China stakes claim on Arunachal Pradesh. China claims it was South Tibet, a region that China forcefully occupied in late 1940s and early 1950s.

China claims certain areas in Uttarakhand. In the western sector, the main dispute is over Chinese possession of Aksai Chin, which it grabbed from India in the 1962 war, when Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister.
Xi was treated, during his stay in the coastal town Mahabalipuram (known also as Mamallapuram) overlooking the Bay Bengal, to special Indian dishes, including Chettinadu and other specialties.

The Chinese leader travelled by a high-end Chinese-made car, Hongqi, which has capacity to race to a speed of 400km per hour.

Hongqi is manufactured by China First Auto Works group which began producing vehicles since 1958.

Prime Minister Modi gifted Nachiarkoil, a six-feet Annam lamp coated with gold, to the Chinese leader. The PM also gifted him a 3-feet high Thanjavur painting of a dancing Goddess Saraswathi to Xi. “The lamp was exclusively made in Tamil Nadu’s Nachiarkoil town by a local community called Pathers. It has a round base decorated with beautiful patterns. It has a slender and intricately-designed ornamental stem with branches taking off at three levels. At the top of the stem is a bowl of five spouts for wicks to light the lamp. Above the lamp is the ‘Annam’, a celestial bird that is reputed to be able to separate milk from water and figuratively good from the bad,” a report said.

Security was tight in Chennai, Mahabalipuram and enroute. As many as 10,000 security personnel were deployed for the safety of the two leaders.

Cultural programmes were one too many to regale the Chinese leader and PM Modi. Such events were organised at 34 places along the road from Chennai to Mahabalipuram. –IHN-NN


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