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Hometown diplomacy expected to be part of Xi's hosting of Modi

February 04, 2015 17:43 IST

Hometown diplomacy mixed with a Silk Road touch is expected be part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's reciprocal gesture when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China before end of May.

Xi is expected to take Modi to his home province of Shaanxi and its historic provincial capital, Xian, which was hub of the ancient Silk Road, official media reported on Wednesday.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who concluded her visit in Beijing on Tuesday said Prime Minister Modi would visit before May 26, the end of his first year in office.

Hometown diplomacy is emerging as the latest trend to showcase the closeness of ties between countries, state-run China Daily said.

Such a practice is not new but has been an increasing occurrence recently and has often coincided with key national strategies, generating widespread public interest, it said.

China was expected to highlight Xi's mega project -- the new Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) -- during Modi's visit.

Xi announced a USD 40 billion dollar funding for the Silk Road projects which included Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) road as well as the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

China has invited India to take part in BCIM and the MSR.

Shortly after Xi proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt to revive the ancient trading route in September 2013, he visited Uzbek President Islam Karimov's hometown of Samarkand, a city with a 2,500-year history and a major stop along the ancient Silk Road.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Hefei, the capital of Premier Li Keqiang's home province of Anhui, the following month, the daily said.

As a special gesture, Prime Minister Modi had accompanied President Xi during the latter's visit to Ahmedabad last year.

Yao Yao, who heads a soft-power studies centre at China Foreign Affairs University, said hometown diplomacy is an efficient way to nurture personal friendship between top leaders.

For instance, it will enable Xi, who started his career in Shaanxi, and Modi, who governed Gujarat for 12 years, to share their experiences.

More importantly, such diplomacy has often occurred at key junctures for China's strategic agenda when Beijing has launched initiatives to introduce the nation's policies and seek cooperation, Yao said.

"As the capital city of Shaanxi, Xi'an is the starting point of the ancient Silk Road. Modi's trip to Shaanxi is likely to be related to Beijing's Silk Road proposals to connect China with Europe through a host of Asian countries," he said.

Swaraj who just concluded a visit here after holding meetings with Xi said India will not provide any blanket endorsement for the Silk Road plans.

“We will look into our interests. Where ever our interests converge we cooperate. No blanket endorsement,” she said.

While India is taking part in the BCIM meetings it is yet to convey its opinion on MSR.

Xian is also famous as Buddhist monk Xuan Zang spent his final years after his return from India some 2,000 years ago. A Pagoda was built in his honour.

Jiang Jingkui, director of the Centre of South Asian Studies at Peking University, said the trip to Shaanxi will strike a friendly tone for both nations.

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