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Modi, Xi in casuals meet in Mamallapuram
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Modi, Xi in casuals meet in Mamallapuram

S.Murari

Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinpiang and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for their informal meeting in the historic Mamallapuram town by sporting traditional casuals at 5 p.m. on the dot.

Modi dressed in Tamil Nadu’s traditional dress of dhoti and bush shirt with a stole over the shoulders greeted Xi at the shore temple in Mamallapuram. Xi removed his coat and shook hands with Modi on the middle of the road  devoid of  visitors with only television cameras whizzing.

Modi took Xi round the Pallava period monuments including Arjun’s tapas, the pancha rathas, butter rock and cave scriptures. Unaided by translators, Modi explained the salient features to Xi about the historic connection between Mamallapuram and China when the Pallava dynasty had maritime trade with China in the eighth century.

The two leaders marveled at the butter rock, as  it is popularly called, which for centuries perches precariously  on a slope and which stood rock like despite as recent as the December 2004 tsunami which hit the town.

The two leaders also visited the Ganesh rath,  a monolithic cave temple which is another marvel. They also posed for photos before Bhim rath, a Shiva temple fashioned after Buddhist architecture, according to archeological experts. The two leaders strolled down the caves for nearly half an hour.

After going round the caves, the two leaders settled down for refreshment by the five raths. They had coconut water. Their talks, informal, are expected to cover a wide range of issues from defence to trade and border. There will be no structured agenda and both leaders will have a free wheeling discussion , picking the thread as it where from the two leaders left off after the first informal summit in picturesque Chinese lake city Wuhan in April 2018,

The meeting was expected to last till 8.30 p.m. Foreign Secretary V K Gokhale is expected to brief the media about the contours of the discussions.

Earlier in the day, President Xi drove down 50 km from his Chennai hotel to Mamallapuram along the deserted east coast road.He was given a traditional welcome at select points from Kovalam to the temple town.