Chennai Connect starts new era of ties, says PM Modi; Xi calls for more talks
The “Chennai Connect” will lead to the start of a new era of cooperation between India and China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday after his two-day informal summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Modi and Xi held several hours of one-on-one talks in Mamallapuram during their second unscripted summit aimed at working out differences that have recently strained ties because of China’s strong support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue over the past few weeks.
They had also touched upon India’s trade deficit with China and the threat posed by radicalisation and terrorism.
“In the Chennai summit, till now we have exchanged important thoughts on bilateral and global issues… Today, our Chennai Connect will lead to the start of a new era of cooperation between the two countries,” Modi said in opening remarks as the two leaders sat down for formal talks with their delegations.
Xi Jinping, on his part, said, he had a “candid discussions as friends” with Modi and would pursue proposals they discussed to improve bilateral ties.
“… I look forward to further discussions in an in-depth manner with you in the full delegation discussions and make further plans for bilateral relations. I may follow up on the proposals and issues discussed yesterday, I will make some responses,” the Chinese president said.
Both the leaders stressed on their meeting in the Chinese lake city of Wuhan last year, which came months after a 73-day face-off between the armies of the two countries at Doklam that had taken their relationship to an all-time low.
Modi said “Wuhan spirit gave a new momentum and trust to our relations” and Xi said he “agreed that it is a good idea”.
“Last year, our informal summit in Wuhan led to increased stability and fresh momentum in our relations. Between both sides, strategic communication has increased,” Modi said.
“We had decided that we will prudently manage our differences, and not allow them to become disputes, we will remain sensitive about each other’s concerns and that our relations will lead to peace and stability across the world,” the Prime Minister added.
Xi agreed the Wuhan summit ushered China-India relations into a new stage of healthy and steady development.
“For the past one year or so, the informal summit continues to produce visible progress,” was Xi’s comment. What has happened has proved that we made the right decision to have this kind of informal summit and we can well continue with this form of meeting,” he added.
The two leaders earlier spent time at the Taj Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury beachside resort overlooking the Bay of Bengal. They met for a tete-a-tete, with only translators present, in a makeshift structure with large glass windows followed by delegation-level talks with their aides.
Modi hosted a private lunch for Xi, which is expected to provide yet another opportunity for a one-on-one conversation. Both sides are expected to issue separate statements after the conclusion of the talks.
The Prime Minister received Xi when he drove in a motorcade from his hotel in Chennai to the Fisherman’s Cove. They then drove in golf carts to the venue of their discussions, located a short distance from the beach.
Modi and Xi had an extensive interaction on Friday during which they agreed to work together on issues ranging from trade to terrorism.
Foreign Secretary Vijay K Gokhale told reporters on Friday that the two leaders held “open and cordial” discussions over dinner that stretched for two and a half hours, almost double the scheduled duration. “This was quality time that the two leaders spent together one on one,” he said.
The two leaders discussed their respective national visions and governance priorities, and Xi said he was looking forward to working very closely with Modi “on all issues”, according to Gokhale.
“Both the leaders said these were large countries and that radicalisation was a matter of concern to both and that both would work together to see that radicalisation and terrorism did not affect the fabric of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies,” he said.
That the private dinner that capped the first day of the second informal summit lasted more than double the scheduled duration was an indication that both sides were making efforts to work out differences, including over China’s strong support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, that have recently strained ties.
Even before the dinner, Modi and Xi had a conversation, with only their translators present, at Pancha Ratha, a monument with five chariots hewn out of solid rock, that lasted almost 15 minutes. They continued their conversation as they strolled near the Shore Temple, the last of the monuments they visited at Mamallapuram.
Xi travelled to India after hosting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, whom he had told that China was closely following the Kashmir issue and that Beijing would back Islamabad on protecting its core interests.
An angry New Delhi had shot back by saying that China was aware of India’s position that Kashmir is an integral part of the country and that India didn’t expect other countries to comment on its internal affairs.
The exchange had triggered speculation about how much the Kashmir issue could linger like a dark cloud over the unstructured interactions in Mamallapuram but people familiar with developments said both sides were looking to the summit to produce “some new directions from the top” that will build on the strategic guidance that flowed from the Wuhan summit.