Xi in Delhi; talks today with Modi on bilateral trade, border
The choice of Ahmedabad as Xi's first stop in India marked a departure from protocol that many see as part of an effort to put a positive gloss on bilateral ties that still suffer from lingering distrust, despite growing trade. India-China ties under the Mahatma’s shadowindia Updated: Sep 18, 2014 09:22 IST
China's President Xi Jinping will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday, the second day of his visit to the country.
President Xi Jinping was given a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning . He will then visit the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat, and then call on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Prime Minister Modi and President Xi will then hold bi-lateral discussions following which both the leaders will make a media statement at Hyderabad House.
On Wednesday, China's president Xi Jinping arrived to a lavish welcome in Ahmedabad, kicking off a three-day visit aimed at rebooting ties with massive Chinese investments in India, especially in infrastructure.
The choice of Ahmedabad as Xi's first stop in India, rather than New Delhi, marked a departure from protocol that many see as part of an effort to put a positive gloss on bilateral ties that still suffer from lingering distrust, despite growing trade.
Xi, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan and a delegation of senior party and government officials, was received by Modi at the Hyatt hotel, where Modi was waiting for him at the porch and greeted him with a long and warm handshake.
The two leaders then had a brief meeting followed by the signing of three memoranda of understanding (MoUs).
The MoUs included one on setting up of an industrial park in Gujarat and another to make Guangzhou and Ahmedabad sister cities. By the end of Xi's trip, Chinese investments totalling some $100 billion, particularly in modernising Indian railways, are expected to be announced.
Shortly after, Modi and Xi, both dressed in informal, half-sleeved jackets, met at the Sabarmati Ashram, where the prime minster personally guided the president through an exhibition on Gandhi's life.
Xi paid respects to a Gandhi statue with a namaste. The two leaders sat on the floor next to a charkha, and through the tour, continued to engage in a conversation--sometimes with interpreters and sometimes on their own. The president was also given gifts by the ashram.
Read: India, China sign 3 pacts within hours of Xi's arrival
The two then went for a walk on the Sabarmati riverfront.
Thereafter, men and women in traditional Gujarati dresses performed some folk dance and music in front of the Chinese guests. Xi and Modi, who turned 64 on Wednesday, were later headed to a lavish vegetarian dinner.
Xi travels to Delhi Wednesday evening and the two sides will hold delegation level talks on Thursday.
The day was marked many novelties--of a Chinese head of state starting a bilateral visit from Gujarat, of an Indian PM not only receiving him outside Delhi but both leaders witnessing official agreements between the two countries outside Delhi, of a PM personally guiding a president of China, unhurriedly, through Gandhi's ashram, and a dinner with Gujarati vegetarian delicacies that Xi, Ahmedabad hopes, would remember for a long time.
Earlier in the day, Wang Hejun, economic and commercial counselor of the Chinese embassy in India, said China and India would sign a $6.8 billion deal to establish two industrial parks aimed at reducing trade imbalances.
That came on the back of news that Indian carrier IndiGo had signed a $2.6 billion deal with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) for the lender to finance more than 30 new aircraft.Read: Indigo inks $2.6 bn leasing deal with Chinese bank
Besides investments, India is banking on China's track record at building highways, railways, and industrial zones to upgrade its creaky infrastructure. India is also eager to address the imbalance in their annual trade, which now totals around $65 billion but is skewed toward imports of Chinese electrical equipment and parts.
But their ties are tested by a decades-old border dispute and fears of China's growing military and economic might. Earlier this week, Xi visited Sri Lanka and Maldives, both traditional allies of India who have unnerved New Delhi by growing closer to Beijing.
Modi appeared to be unbothered by those visits, alluding Tuesday to ancient Sino-Indian ties dating back to a Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuan Zang, who spent time in Modi's village in Gujarat in 600 AD.
Read: India-China ties under the Mahatma’s shadow
In another wrinkle ahead of Xi's trip, India on Monday extended a $100-million export credit for defence deals to Vietnam and tightened energy ties with the country, which has strained ties with China, over an increasingly ugly territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Besides, the presence in India of Dalai Lama, who Beijing calls a splitist, continues to a source of tension between the two countries. Police detained a small group of Tibetan protesters from outside China's embassy in Delhi on Wednesday. Other Tibetans were held in Gujarat.
(With inputs from Prashant Jha in Ahmedabad)
First Published: Sep 17, 2014 18:48 IST