As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping sit down for their informal summit in the seaside town of Mamallapuram (old name Mahabalipuram) near Chennai, all eyes will be on the issues that the two leaders are going to take up.
After the informal summit in Wuhan, China, it was decided that Xi would come to India for another informal summit with Modi. The historic town of Mamallapuram was chosen by Chinese experts as this 7th-8th century capital of Pallava kings had sea trade links with China.
Modi is considered a master of the art of informal diplomacy. His informal meetings with world statesmen like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping are known for his personal touch and these have already created waves in the world arena. Modi was lavishly treated to Chinese hospitality during his visit to Wuhan last year, and it was then that he decided to return the hospitality to the Chinese leader in India.
This 'informal' dimension is a new phenomenon in Indian diplomacy, almost unheard of till 2014. Almost all meetings of Indian leaders with world statesmen had over the years been structured and formal, and it goes to the credit of Modi that he has started this new trend of informal summits.
Apart from diplomacy, there is a vision behind such informal summits. By showcasing places of historical interest to world leaders, Modi kindles worldwide interest of tourists about beautiful places in India. This gives a boost to local tourism and investment. The other benign byproduct of such visits is the development of infrastructure at such tourist resorts. This facilitates both Indian and foreign tourists as also the local tourist industry.
Modi will personally guide Xi through the famous monuments of Arjuna's Penance, Panch Rathas and the Shore Temple, besides watching Bharatnatyam dance. He will be showing Chinese coins that have been unearthed in Mamallapuram by archaeologists that establish the 7th century connection of Pallava dynasty with the Chinese empire.
There is no structured agenda on the table, and the two leaders along with their advisers will discuss serious issues that affect both the region in particular and the world at large. Trade and security appear to be on top of the agenda. One should hope that the two big powers of Asia, representing nearly two-thirds of humanity, will come to a mutually beneficial understanding.
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