Chinese President Xi Jinping landed to a red-carpet welcome at the Chennai airport for an unscripted summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has been described by New Delhi as “unparalleled”. President Xi’s informal summit with PM Modi at a seaside resort of Mamallapuram is expected to rebalance ties strained by Beijing’s stand on changes made to the status of Occupied Kashmir and its support to Pakistan.
President Xi was received by Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam. PM Modi, who had reached Tamil Nadu a few hours earlier, took a chopper to Mamallapuram on the outskirts of Chennai where he will receive the visiting dignitary later in the evening.
“Welcome to India, President Xi Jinping!,” PM Modi tweeted minutes after President Xi landed in Chennai. This was his second message for the Chinese President. Earlier, PM Modi had tweeted his welcome in three languages, Engilish, Tamil and Mandarin: “It is gladdening that Tamil Nadu will host President Xi Jinping. May this Informal Summit further strengthen ties between India and China”.
From the airport, President Xi drove down straight to his hotel in Chennai before heading to the coastal town of Mamallapuram, chosen because it showcases India’s ancient culture and heritage and links with China’s Fujian province.
The Chennai summit is the second edition of the informal summit between PM Modi and President Xi. The first was in the picturesque Chinese lake city of Wuhan in April 2018, months after a 73-day face off between the armies of the two countries in Doklam trijunction raised fears of a war between the two Asian giants.
This edition had been planned much in advance. But this one comes against the backdrop of a testy exchange between the two countries over Kashmir and its support to Pakistan.
President Xi’s meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan hasn’t gone unnoticed either, not after the Chinese leader declared that Beijing was watching the situation in Kashmir. That remark drew a loud and formal rebuttal from New Delhi which reminded China that developments in Kashmir were India’s internal matter.