Rajat Sharma

How Modi, Xi have taken India-China relations to a new level

akb2308History was being written on the seashore of Mahabalipuram near Chennai on Friday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at a two-day informal summit and discussed bilateral and regional issues amidst verdant surroundings.

A one-on-one dinner between the two leaders near the historic Shore Temple, earlier scheduled for one hour, stretched on for over two-and-a-half hours, with both statesmen sharing their visions of development and discussed issues relating to trade and terrorism.

According to Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, Modi told Xi that his renewed mandate was for economic development, and the Chinese leader responded by saying that he was ready to work closely with the Indian PM. The atmospherics and personal chemistry reflected the “personal rapport” between the two leaders, said Gokhale.

It was an idyllic setting in the backdrop of a 1,400-year-old temple complex, with Modi donning a white shirt and veshti that sent a strong message with political overtones to the people of Tamil Nadu.

As the bilateral meetings resumed on Saturday morning before Xi leaves for Nepal, the indications were clear. Indian embassy on Friday relaxed visa rules for Chinese citizens allowing them multiple-entry 5-year visa at affordable rates.

With the world watching the Modi-Xi informal summit closely, the signs that emanate are clear. China, embroiled in a bitter trade dispute with the US, seeks India’s support, and India wants to wean China away from its all-weather friend Pakistan.

The body language of the Chinese leader on Friday clearly indicated that Xi understands India’s position on issues like terrorism, Kashmir and CPEC, and wants to take India-China relations to another level.

Both Modi and Xi have changed the matrix of India-China negotiations. Till 2014, the leaders of both countries used to stick to stiff and formal protocols, with little talk and more posturing. That has changed after Modi took over and launched his personal style of diplomacy with world leaders.

The ease with which both the leaders met, walked and talked clearly indicates that India-China relations have reached a new high. Never had Xi Jinping showed such bonhomie and ease with any world leader of repute. Whether it was Gujarat, or Wuhan or Mahabalipuram, the tone has been set as India and China embark on a new phase of peace and friendship.

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