Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping began the second day of their informal summit with a tete-e-tete in the coastal temple town of Kovalam on Saturday. Modi and Xi exchanged views facing the seafront in the luxury Taj resort Fisherman's Cove. Strategic affairs expert Ambassador Ashok Kantha said the focus of the summit on Friday and Saturday would be to move beyond contentious issues and not allow the Kashmir issue to adversely impact overall ties.
What happened on Day 1 of PM Modi-Xi Jinping summit
On Friday, both the leaders held talks for two-and-a-half-hours over dinner, during which they resolved to further energise bilateral development partnership and insulating the overall ties from differences over contentious issues.
The meeting at the magnificent Shore temple complex under a sea-facing colourful tent in this coastal town continued much beyond the scheduled time as both leaders, helped by two interpreters, touched upon a range of issues, including complex ones, over sumptuous local Tamil delicacies, sources said.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar described the engagement between Modi and Xi on the first day of the Informal summit as "highly productive".
There was no official confirmation whether Modi and Xi discussed the Kashmir issue. However, it is widely speculated that the issue found mention in the conversation between the two leaders over dinner.
In a tweet following the dinner, Modi said he was delighted to spend time with Xi.
"Mamallapuram is one of the most beautiful places in India, full of vibrancy. It is linked to commerce, spirituality and is now a popular tourist centre. I am delighted that President Xi Jinping and I are spending time in this scenic place, which is also a @UNESCO heritage site," he said.
Mamallapuram is one of the most beautiful places in India, full of vibrancy. It is linked to commerce, spirituality and is now a popular tourism centre.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 11, 2019
I am delighted that President Xi Jinping and I are spending time in this scenic place, which is also a @UNESCO heritage site. pic.twitter.com/5oH95Rh34p
In the late afternoon, Modi and Xi sipped coconut water and engaged in casual interaction in a serene setting in the backdrop of 7th-century rock-cut chariots of Pancha Ratha overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
Modi, dressed in a Tamil attire of 'Veshti' (dhoti), white shirt and an 'angavastram' (shawl), took Xi for a guided tour of the famous world heritage sites of Arjuna's Penance, Krishna's Butterball, the Pancha Ratha and Shore temple in this ancient temple town, kicking off the second informal summit between the two leaders.
Modi-Xi held a pleasant conversation on Day 1
Modi and Xi, assisted by one translator from each side, sat down for around 15 minutes at Pancha Ratha complex, an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture, and engaged in casual talks while sipping fresh coconut water - images reflecting warmth in personal chemistry between the two leaders of two emerging economies.
From Pancha Ratha, the two leaders visited the beautifully lit-up Shore temple - a symbol of the cultural heritage of the Pallava dynasty. After spending some time together, Modi and Xi were joined by top delegates of both sides and all them witnessed a cultural programme presented by Kalakshetra society.
After the event, Modi hosted Xi for the private dinner at the Shore temple complex which was beautifully decorated with lights and flowers. Eight delegates from each side were also invited for the dinner and they sat in tables little away from Xi and Modi's. Delicately selected authentic Tamil cuisines including vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes were served.
At the site of Krishna's butterball, a gigantic granite boulder sitting firmly on the slope of a hillock, Modi held Xi's hands, reflecting warmth in their personal chemistry.
"Standing together and tall!," said Kumar in a Twitter post.
This is the second edition of the informal summit between Modi and Xi. The first informal between the two leaders was held in the 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.
Xi Jinpings's arrival in India
Xi's visit to India comes two days after he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing. After the talks, a joint statement said China is paying "close attention" to the situation in Kashmir and that the issue should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter. The comments evoked a sharp reaction from New Delhi.
Shortly after Xi's aircraft touched down in Chennai, government sources said the two leaders are expected to issue some directions at the end of the summit on Saturday as they did after the first edition of the new format of engagement in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year.
Officials on both sides said the focus of the Modi-Xi summit would be to move forward and chart a new pathway of development notwithstanding sharp differences between the two countries over several contentious issues.