Unparalleled, says India on PM Modi’s ‘unscripted’ summit with Xi Jinping
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Chennai on Friday morning ahead of his informal summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping who will be in the city by 2pm. A multi-layered security drill, including the sealing of key roads, has been put in place in and around the seaside resort of Mamallapuram for the summit.
India is looking to the unstructured meeting between Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clear the air and take forward bilateral relations after a testy exchange between the two sides over the Kashmir, including China’s support to Pakistan on the issue.
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After flying into Chennai shortly after 2 pm on Friday, Xi will be received by Tamil Nadu chief minister and governor. The Chinese delegation will then head to the ITC Hotel, from where they will go to Mamallapuram. Prime Minister Modi has already reached the resort in the coastal town where the summit will be held.
“Unscripted and unparalleled. Narendra Modi arrived for the Chennai Informal Summit with Chinese President Xi. The two leaders would exchange views on a range of subjects unrestricted by a set agenda,” tweeted MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
People familiar with developments said the Chinese president will drive from Chennai to Mamallapuram, a distance of a little more than 50 km, in a motorcade. The people said the Chinese side had opted for a hotel in Chennai and to drive to Mamallapuram, instead of using a helicopter, for security and other reasons.
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Several key roads will be completely sealed while Xi’s motorcade drives to and from Mamallapuram on Friday and other routes, including one leading from Chennai to the seaside resort, are inaccessible to the public.
Makeshift wooden barricades have been put up along the route for Xi’s motorcade, from where hundreds of students will greet him as he drives by. At several points, cultural troupes will perform dances.
CCTV cameras have been put up at every 50 metres on the route from Mamallapuram to the beachside temple complex, a distance of 15 km, that will be the venue for the first one-on-one exchange between the two leaders. They will have a guided tour of three monuments dating back to the 7th and 8th century – Arjuna’s Penance, Panch Rathas and the Shore Temple – at the World Heritage Site, before witnessing a cultural programme by the Kalakshetra Foundation comprising Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dances.
Mamallapuram was chosen as the venue because of long-standing trade and cultural links between Tamil Nadu’s coastal areas and China’s Fujian province, and Modi is expected to highlight this aspect while going around the complex with Xi.
The Shore Temple complex will also be the venue for a private dinner hosted by Modi, for which a huge white tent has been erected. This dinner, the people cited above said, will allow for the most substantive engagement between the two leaders on Friday.
Xi’s motorcade will drive back to Chennai after the dinner, which is scheduled for 6.45 pm. Modi and his delegation are expected to stay at Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury seaside resort, which will be the venue for one-on-one and delegation-level meetings between the two leaders on Saturday.
More than 5,000 security personnel are part of the extensive security arrangements in and around Mamallapuram and hundreds of police personnel were seen guarding key roads around the resort through the night and stopping vehicles for thorough checks.
The venue for Friday’s meeting have been sealed since Thursday night, with no access even for media photographers. The meeting between Xi and Modi at the Mamallapuram temple complex will be covered only by state-run Doordarshan.
Meanwhile, hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Chennai on Friday morning, five Tibetan students were detained by the city police for staging a protest and shouting slogan at Guindy, in front of the ITC Hotel, where Xi will stay during his visit.
The five students, who breached a police cordon and shouted slogans demanding independence for Tibet while holding “Free Tibet” flags, were taken away by the police.