India's Modi picks up trash from seaside town while hosting China's Xi

Clay Curtis
October 12, 2019

On Friday, a one-on-one tete-a-tete between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping over dinner on Friday lasted for two-and-a-half hours, well beyond the planned time, and was "very open and cordial", holding promise of several Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) emerging out of the second informal summit between the two sides.

Xi, however, apprised Modi of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Beijing earlier in the Gokhale added. The comment was in the context of tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi scrapped a temporary provision in its constitution that gave special status to Kashmir and integrated the region more closely with India.

Chinese and Indian leaders have just begun the second day of their one-in-one at India's picturesque resort overlooking the Bay of Bengal, trading pleasantries and trying to reconcile frictions between their nations.

But at their talks on Friday, the leaders acknowledged a common challenge, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.

"Frankly, the optics surrounding this visit don't look very promising at the moment", Harsh Pant, an global relations professor at King's College London, told AFP.

India and China - home to more than a third of humanity - have never been the best of friends, going to war in 1962 and engaging in a series of Himalayan standoffs since. "Today, Chennai connect marks a new era in the relation between the two countries", Modi said referring to the first informal summit in Wuhan in 2018. The announcement of the Wuhan meet had signalled a thaw in bilateral ties after the 73-day India-China military face off at Bhutan's Doklam plateau in 2017.

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Friday's talks between Modi and Xi were aimed at building on the relationship reset that began in Wuhan in April a year ago.

Their latest meeting, over elaborate meals and dance performances at Mahabalipuram on Friday and Saturday, is aimed at building on that.

Xi and Modi visited three iconic monuments - Arjuna's Penance, Pancha Rathas and the Shore Temple - at Mamallapuram, a tourist town famous for its stone carvings 60 kilometers south of Chennai. Modi told Xi that the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram is an outstanding example of India's cultural heritage and architecture, and witnessed India and China's civilisation exchanges and historical connections for more than a dozen centuries.

But since Wuhan other irritants have emerged, including a reported "scuffle" between troops of the two countries in Ladakh last month and Indian military activities in the northern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, part of which Beijing claims.

Indian cities have some of the world's highest levels of atmospheric pollution but they are also among the dirtiest with piles of garbage lying in big centres like Delhi and Mumbai because of rapid urban growth and poor governance.

On commerce, India and China are both facing a protectionist America and want greater access to each other's markets. "We have a made a wise decision on informal summits".

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