In the backdrop of the seventh century monument of Pancha Ratha, overlooking the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday took a stroll and sipped fresh coconut water in a relaxed informal setting, creating positive atmospherics in bilateral ties strained over Kashmir.
Modi, dressed in a Tamil attire of 'Veshti' (Dhoti), white shirt and an 'angavastram' (shawl), took Xi for a guided tour of the famous world heritage sites of Arjuna's Penance, Krishna's Butterball, the Pancha Ratha and Shore temple in this ancient temple town, kicking off the second informal summit between the two leaders.
In the footage beamed by public broadcaster Doordarshan of the two leaders visiting the magnificent monuments, Modi was seen warmly explaining to the Chinese leader the historical significance of the monuments with the dazzling setting sun casting a soft glow over the iconic site.
Xi, wearing a white shirt and black trouser, was seen showing keen interest in the famous caves and stone sculptures in the heritage site in this coastal town which had historical links with China's Fujian province.
Photographs: @PMOIndia/Twitter; PTI Photo; ANI
Modi and Xi, assisted by one translator from each side, sat down for around 15 minutes at Pancha Ratha complex, an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture, and engaged in casual talks while sipping fresh coconut water - images reflecting warmth in personal chemistry between the two leaders of two emerging economies.
'The free flowing nature of the informal summit at the UNESCO world heritage site will continue and deepen contacts at the highest level and guide the future trajectory of India-China relationship,' External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Ravesh Kumar tweeted.
At the site of Krishna's butterball, a gigantic granite boulder sitting firmly on the slope of a hillock, Modi held Xi's hands, reflecting warmth in their personal chemistry. 'Standing together and tall!' said Kumar in a Twitter post.
Shortly after Xi's aircraft touched down in Chennai, government sources said the two leaders are expected to issue some directions at the end of the summit on Saturday as they did after the first edition of new format of engagement in Chinese city of Wuhan last year. Officials on both sides said the focus of the Modi-Xi summit would be to move forward and chart a new pathway of development notwithstanding sharp differences between the two countries over several contentious issues.
This is the second edition of the informal summit between Modi and Xi. The first informal between the two leaders was held in 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 tri-juction raised fears of a war between the two Asian giants.
Mahabalipuram, a town with strong trade linkages with China's Fujian province, has been spruced up and brought under un unprecedented security cover – in the process inconveniencing local people as well as tourists.
Earlier, Xi arrived in Chennai to a red carpet welcome for his second informal summit with Modi amid a realisation a lot is riding on the bilateral ties strained over the hardline approach on the Kashmir issue by both sides. 'Welcome to India, President Xi Jinping!' Modi tweeted, shortly after the Chinese leader arrived on an Air China Boeing 747 aircraft, accompanied by a 90-member delegation including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Polit Bureau member of Central Committee of Chinese Communist Party Ding Xuexiang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
In the late afternoon, Modi and Xi sipped coconut water and engaged in casual interaction in a serene setting in the backdrop of 7th century rock-cut chariots of Pancha Ratha overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Xi's visit to India comes two days after he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing.
The two leaders will have around six-hours of one-on-one free-wheeling talks, officials said.
On Saturday morning, Modi and Xi will have a comprehensive one-on-one meeting to be followed by delegation level talks. Both sides will, then, issue separate statements on outcome of the summit. "Both sides know that a lot is riding on the relationship and this is reflected in the summit being held on schedule despite speculations of its postponement in recent weeks," said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
From Pancha Ratha, the two leaders visited the beautifully lit-up Shore temple -- a symbol of cultural heritage of the Pallava dynasty. After spending some time together, Modi and Xi were joined by top delegates of both sides and all them witnessed a cultural programme presented by Kalakshetra society
A brief cultural ceremony reflecting Tamil Nadu's cultural heritage was organised at the airport to welcome the visiting leader.
With inputs from PTI