What exactly will PM Narendra Modi have in store for President Xi Jinping when the latter lands in Chennai Friday for the second informal summit? Four separate meetings together lasting well over 5 hours, or a minimum of 315 minutes, with the highlight being a tete-a-tete on the manicured lawns of a seaside resort overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
In the 24 hours, which Xi will spend in and around Chennai after he lands there at 1.30 pm Friday and departs around the same time the next day, the 2 leaders will also pack in an hour-long tour of Mamallapuram’s 3 famous monuments and a cultural programme. In all, Modi and Xi will spend close to 7 hours together.
Another round of diplomatic strife, this time over India’s ongoing military exercise in Arunachal Pradesh 100 km from LAC, has further delayed the announcement of Xi’s visit but both sides seemed confident Sunday of salvaging the summit. They are soon expected to arrive at an understanding on the issue.
The Indian army clarified again Saturday that the exercise was planned months in advance and had nothing to do with summit dates.
Ahead of the summit, ToI got an exclusive, and comprehensive, peek into the programme which seemed designed to allow Modi and Xi to spend as much time as possible in private.
The 2 leaders will officially start the informal summit Friday 5 pm with an hour-long tour of 3 monuments – Arjuna’s Penance, Panch Rathas and Shore Temple – in Mamallapuram. This will be followed up with a cultural programme they will together attend at Shore Temple.
Xi and Modi will then round off the day with a private dinner which the latter will host again at Shore Temple. This 75-minute dinner is expected to be one-on-one but it’s possible senior officials will join them towards the end. Xi will then return to his hotel in Chennai.
The 2 leaders will start the next day 10 am with an informal chat in the gardens of a 5-star resort, right on the edge of the Bay of Bengal. This meeting, expected to last for at least 40 minutes, is where Xi and Modi will exchange their world views in private, like they did on a boat ride in Wuhan last year. This will be an, as a source put it, unscripted meeting where the leaders will focus on the big picture without getting distracted by the finer details of the complexities which have impaired ties in the recent past.
Those will be reserved for the next round of meeting at the same venue – the formal delegation-level talks – which will seek to generate some takeaways, perhaps the most challenging aspect of the second informal summit. After these talks, Modi will again meet Xi over lunch, again at the same resort, before the Chinese president departs for the airport.