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No hugs but warmth evident as Modi, Xi met 6 times in less than 24 hours

At the museum, Xi took Modi on a personal tour during which the Indian leader was shown carefully selected artifacts excavated from various locations in Hubei province.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2018 20:21 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Wuhan, Hindustan Times
Narendra Modi,Xi Jinping,Wuhan summit
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua news agency, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping talk during a meeting in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province on April 28, 2018. (AP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping were not expected to hug at their first meeting at the Hubei provincial museum on Friday afternoon. They didn’t.

But the following 35 minutes at the museum set the tone for their informal summit, and the six times they met in less than 24 hours in warm, humid Wuhan.

All the interactions took place without the leaders having to stick to a written, structured agenda, though the officials who planned Modi’s visit had prepared outlines for topics to be discussed.

Chinese officials pointed out Xi had never hosted another world leader twice outside Beijing. Xi, they added, had first hosted Modi in Xian in May 2015.

At the museum, Xi took Modi on a personal tour during which the Indian leader was shown carefully selected artifacts excavated from various locations in Hubei province.

The next meeting between the two leaders – accompanied by six diplomats from each side – was supposed to last 30 minutes. Instead, it went on for two hours.

“Keeping in the nature of the informal summit, it went beyond its budgeted time,” foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Saturday while talking about the meeting.

The scenic East Lake of Wuhan was the setting for most of the meetings. On Saturday, it was at the park next to the lake that the two leaders first went for a walk before taking a boat ride.

A special Chinese tea-making ceremony was arranged on the upper deck of the boat, where experts carefully explained the history and culture of tea drinking in China to Modi.

The topic of Indian movies performing well in China and the success of Aamir Khan’s Dangal was bound to come up. During one of the interactions, Xi told Modi he had seen a number of Bollywood and regional Indian movies.

Xi suggested more Indian movies should be screened in China and more Chinese movies shown in India, strengthening people-to-people contacts.

Commentaries in the Chinese media reflected a sense of optimism and noted the “personal chemistry” of the two leaders.

“The beauty of the ‘informal’ summit between Xi and Modi is that it comes with no baggage, only expectations. It is free of the usual diplomatic frills, somewhat beyond the global media limelight,” state controlled China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

“As expected, the ‘heart-to-heart’ communication between the two leaders reflected their deepened mutual chemistry, which, in turn, will be conducive to improving mutual trust between the neighbours and charting the course of long-term bilateral development,” it added.

On Saturday morning, Modi posted two messages with photos on his account on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, sharing his thoughts on the visit.

“Very glad to meet President Xi Jinping in Wuhan. We had broad and fruitful discussions and exchanged ideas on how to strengthen the India-China relationship and other international issues,” he wrote.

He posted photos of his tour with Xi at the Hubei museum on Friday. “Thanks President Xi Jinping for accompanying me on the tour at the Hubei Provincial Museum. This museum has significant historical relics of Chinese civilisation and history,” he said.

First Published: Apr 28, 2018 20:21 IST