NEW DELHI: “After months of preparation, on the early morning of April 27th, Wuhan welcomes PM Modi with soft breeze and twinkling stars.”
That tweet by China’s Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, set the tone for the two-day ‘informal’ summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday.
Modi, who arrived shortly after midnight, was received by senior Chinese and Indian officials before being hustled away to his hotel. The formal part of the informal meeting began in the afternoon, with Xi, dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, welcoming Modi with a firm handshake and posing for photographs before the two witnessed a cultural programme at the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan.
“The two leaders together tried their hands on a set of ancient chimes and had a group photo with artists in ancient costume. How do you like the way PM Modi plays the ancient chimes?” asked Ambassador Luo in another tweet.
The delegation-level discussions followed at the East Lake Guest House in Wuhan, which was the villa of the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, and where Xi is staying for the summit.
“This is possibly for the first time that you have met a country’s leader twice outside the capital, Beijing. This is a sign of the importance that you accord to India as a country,” Modi told Xi.
In May 2015, during his first visit to China after assuming office, Modi was greeted by Xi in his hometown Xian.
Declaring that such informal summits should become a tradition, he told Xi that “I’ll be happy, if in 2019, we can have such informal summit in India.” Xi, on his part, noted that “The influence of our two countries is steadily rising in the region and the world. I look forward to in-depth communication with your excellency, and ensure we can build common understanding and help to take the China-India relationship to the next level.”
The delegation-level talks, originally scheduled for half an hour, went on for two. In the evening, the two leaders retired for a private dinner, before which Modi presented reprints of two paintings by famous Chinese painter Xu Beihong (1895-1953) done during his stay at Santiniketan in 1939- 40. On Saturday, they will resume their one-on-one interaction at 10 am local time with walks by the lakeside, a boat ride and wind up their talks over lunch.
“Two days, six meetings, where the two leaders will have a heart-to-heart discussions on every relevant subject. It doesn’t matter if there are no decisions taken or announced, this was a visit well worth making,” said an Indian official. This is Modi’s fourth visit to China after he came to power in 2014, and he will visit China again to take part in the SCO summit to be held at Qingdao city on June 9 and 10.