The stage is set for the second 'informal' summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, to be held in the coastal and heritage town of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram). The two-day meet starts tomorrow.
The meeting comes at a critical time for the neighbours with China recently criticising India's decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir's autonomy and bifurcate the state into two Union territories, its Foreign Minister Wang Yi raising the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly last month and New Delhi responding by saying it did not welcome comments on its internal matters. India also remains opposed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
"At the regional level, we should resolve disputes peacefully through dialogues and consultations and jointly uphold regional peace and stability," said Sun Weidong, Beijing's ambassador to New Delhi.
The two leaders will engage in one-on-one talks during the meeting and are also expected to discuss expanding economic and development ties.
After winning his second term, Modi formally extended an invitation to Xi in June at the Bishkek summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which the latter accepted. This is the second informal summit between the two leaders, after Wuhan, which was held in April, 2018, in China. Notably, China has been importing rice and sugar from India following a request from the Prime Minister in the first informal summit.
Meanwhile, the city of Chennai and the entire stretch which connects coastal town of Mamallapuram -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its stone carvings and rock cut temples of the Pallava dynasty period -- are getting a complete face-lift in anticipation of the meet.
Hundreds of workers from various departments are working on the nearly 60 km stretch, a route which the two leaders would take to reach the summit venue. The workers are laying new roads, filling potholes, and putting reflectors in place. The walls are being decorated with beautiful paintings by school children while efforts are afoot to make the coastal route greener.
An Air China cargo flight landed at Chennai airport on Tuesday evening, carrying four cars which will be part of the motorcade of Chinese President, who is expected to land at Chennai airport on Friday afternoon. From there, he will drive to ITC Grand Chola, where he will stay and later drive to Mamallapuram. The 18-feet long, 6.5 feet wide and five-feet tall cars weigh 3,152 kg each and can zip from zero to hundred kilometers in a little over eight seconds.
The car will drive the President from the hotel at Chennai to Mamallapuram. To make the VVIP movement safe and easy, traffic will come to a complete standstill on the stretch, which houses hundreds of IT companies, nearly 50 schools and 20 colleges.
On the security arrangements front, nearly 7,000 police personal are deployed for security across the corridor, venue of the summit, hotels where the VVIPs and delegates are staying, and the monuments which will be visited by the leaders. Security is likely to enhanced further after Tibetans have threatened to hold protest.
Prime Minister Modi will use a helicopter to travel from Chennai airport to Mamallapuram on Friday and will stay at the nearby Taj Fisherman's cove, which is close to Mamallapuram and will be the venue for the Summit.
The selection of Mamallapuram as a venue is not only because of this cultural, commercial link that goes back centuries. The aircraft carrying the Chinese President and his top officials needs a larger runway, which is not available in some of the cities that were under consideration for the summit, including Modi's own constituency Varanasi, said sources. Chennai has the infrastructure to handle such aircraft and Mamallapuram is the closest with historical connections with Chinese.
According to reports, available literature shows that the Pallava Kings had a trade and defence relationship with China, in which the kings agreed to help China in keeping a check on the growth of Tibet as a powerful nation. Bodhidharma, one of the famous Buddhist Monk in China is believed to be the third son of a Pallava King, who travelled from Kanchipuram through Mamallapuram to China in 527 AD.