The ancient coastal town of Mamallapuram near Chennai has turned into a fortress ahead of the India-China summit. Unprecedented security arrangements have been put in place, while the beautification and other preparations touched a feverish pitch on Wednesday. A Coast Guard ship is stationed off the Shore Temple and more than 5,000 police personnel, drawn from various parts of Tamil Nadu, have been deployed in and around the town and nearby places, including the Old Mahabalipuram Road and the East Coast Road as part of security measures.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold talks on October 11-12 to deepen ties, including in the field of counter-terrorism in the second informal summit.
Reflecting the high levels of security required for the two top leaders, dozens of temporary police outposts have been set up in and around the town which will be under the watch of 800 CCTV cameras.
Historical importance of Mamallapuram
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram, as it is commonly referred to, was established by Narasimhavarman I of the Pallava dynasty in the seventh century AD. The summit venue is 50 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital. It was established as a seaport town by the Pallava king to carry out merchandise trade with other parts of the world.
Narasimhavarman was hailed as “Mamallan” for his excellence in warfare and hence, the seaport town was named Mamallapuram.
The Pallavas had sent their envoys to China as they had a good relationship with them. The China-Pallava dynasty relationship included an understanding on defence.
Narasimhavarman II had offered help to the Chinese rulers to take on the Arabs and Tibetans.
Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang went around the Pallava kingdom of Narasimhavarman I and lauded the people’s valour, conduct and excellence in education.
Another significant aspect to the Sino-Indian summit being held at Mamallapuram is that India and China have had trade relations dating back to the pre-Christ period.
Historians say there is archaeological evidence of Sino-India links that date back to 2,000 years. Chinese coins dating back to these centuries have also been found in the state.
Mahabalipuram, which is part of Tamil Nadu’s Kanchipuram district, is referred to in a Chinese text, Chien Han Shu, as ‘Huang Che’.
Mamallapuram was a thriving port until the end of ninth century AD with the town being part of China’s 'Silk Route' and India’s 'Spice Route'. Kanchipuram’s silk industry owes its genesis to the import of raw silk from China through Mamallapuram.
The rich history of Mamallapuram’s relations with China makes it the best venue that India could have decided upon to host Modi’s summit with Xi.
Security arrangements at Mamallapuram
Vehicle screening has been intensified in the town and control rooms are on standby. Barricades have been put up on the beach near the shore temple, one of the places to be visited by PM Modi and Xi, while a make-shift wall has been erected along its compound on the side where a string of shops are located.
The wall towering over the shops, which will remain shut, sported 'rangoli' artwork in some stretches with the background painted in red colour.
Local fishermen have been asked to stay away from the sea from Thursday, officials said. Plainclothesmen are swarming the town roads and the Inspection Bungalow is teeming with top state and police officials.
The Special Protection Group and bomb disposal squad personnel are "keeping all the areas including the group of monuments to be visited by the two leaders sanitised."
Over two dozen sniffer dogs have also been pressed into service as part of the security arrangements, police said.
The cleaning up and beautification work of the monuments and various other places entered the last stretch with the involvement of hundreds of civic, sanitary and other workers.
Workers are seen using high power air compressor based equipment to clean up the locations in and around the monuments.
In a painstaking effort, scribblings made by visitors on various monuments were removed by the personnel of the chemical branch of the Archaeological Survey of India, officials said.
The entire coastal town has been dotted with around 100 ornamental lights while welcome arches have been erected at the entry point to the town.
Besides, banners with a red background and images of the two leaders posing with a smile neatly embossed will be placed in key locations, officials said.
The welcome messages are in Tamil followed by Hindi and Chinese next.
The ongoing work by electricity employees to "fix cables underground" and refurbishing some power distribution installations has resulted in frequent power cuts in the past week, locals said.
Meanwhile, welcoming the summit, a national integration rally was organised on Wednesday with the participation of a large number of school children.