It will not be just a walk around the cultural park when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in the ancient city of Xian on Thursday.
The 60-minute meeting is expected to focus on economics and expanding trade -- heavily skewed in China’s favour -- but diplomats from both sides say a resolution of the long-standing border dispute between the two Asian giants is nowhere on the horizon.
India is likely to sign business deals worth $10 billion and up to 10 key agreements with the PM telling Chinese media in Delhi he wanted to focus on how the two countries could further strengthen mutual trust and confidence.
“I look forward to working out a roadmap for qualitatively upgrading our economic relations and seek greater Chinese participation in India’s economic growth, especially in transforming India’s manufacturing sector and infrastructure,” Modi said on the eve of his first visit to China since becoming prime minister.
The build-up to Modi’s three-day tour has been stormy after China reacted angrily to his Arunachal Pradesh visit in February. Modi is also likely to bring up the topic of China’s “all weather strategic cooperation” with Pakistan, a source of mistrust between New Delhi and Beijing.
Chinese academics, however, say India need not worry too much about Pakistan. “Pakistan is very crucial for China’s national security. China’s relation with Pakistan is not about targeting India,” Ye Hailin from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told HT.
Xi is also likely to urge Modi to join his ambitious “Belt and Road” plans — modern trade and economic routes that connect China to the rest of Asia and beyond, through land and the sea.
Of course, it is not all work for Modi. Soon after touching down in Xian — the capital of Shaanxi province and home to the ancestral village of Xi’s father — he heads for the Terracotta Warriors Museum. But for the PM, the visit to the Wild Goose Pagoda, with its ancient links to India, could be the cultural highlight of his tour.
President Xi will show Modi around the Pagoda, which has preserved manuscripts from the seventh century brought by the Chinese monk Xuan Zang. Xi will also show him a travelogue written by the monk, which mentions the ancient town of Ananthpura, the present day Vadnagar, Modi’s hometown.
(With inputs from HTC, Delhi)