Wuhan, Apr 27: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping today held "extensive and fruitful" meetings here on the first day of an unprecedented two-day informal summit to "solidify" the India-China relationship and exchanged views on how the two countries can work together for the benefit of their people and the world.
The 'heart-to-heart' summit in Wuhan - the favourite holiday spotof revolutionary Chinese leader Mao Zedong - is being seen as an effort by India and China to rebuild trust and improve ties that were hit by the 73-day-long Dokalam standoff last year. Modi who arrived in the central Chinese city early today for the summit began talks soon after Xi received him with a warm shake hand and hosted a grand welcoming ceremony for him at the Hubei Provincial Museum here. He was welcomed with a classical Chinese dance opera performance after which Xi took him around some of the most historic art collections and cultural relics of China's ancient civilisation. The museum walk scheduled for 20 minutes lasted over 40 minutes after which they began one-on-one talks.
"Delighted to meet President Xi Jinping in Wuhan. Our talks were extensive and fruitful. We deliberated on stronger India-China relations as well as other global issues," Modi tweeted at the end of first day of talks. He also thanked President Xi for the "wonderful gesture of personally accompanying me in the Hubei Provincial Museum." Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the two leaders "exchanged views on solidifying our bilateral relationship." Their one-on-one talks were followed by delegation-level interaction with six top officials each from both sides took part, giving an impression that some of the critical issues were on the table for discussion.
The talks lasted for over two hours overshooting scheduled half an hour time, hinting the seriousness of the discussions, officials said. The talks between the two leaders on the first day ended with dinner diplomacy. Xi hosted a banquet in honour of Modi at the famous East lake. Xi in a gesture of warmth and friendship walked with Modi to the car to see him off. The summit was stated to be unique as the two leaders have no pressure and obligation to strike any agreements nor make big announcements but focus mainly on candid discussions on solutions to some of the vexed problems like the boundary question and other issues.
Modi offered to host the next informal summit with Xi in India next year. "I'll be happy, if in 2019, we can have such informal summit in India," he told Xi. Xi said they can meet in a format like this from time to time. Modi hailed the centuries old Sino-India ties and said India and China have the responsibility to work for 40 per cent of the world population and the two sides have a big opportunity to work together for the benefit of their people and the world. He recalled that during the 2000 years of history, India and China together provided momentum and strength to the world economy and dominated it for around 1600 years.
"The two countries together constituted for about 50 per cent of the world economy for 1600 years," the prime minister said. Modi also said the people of India felt proud that President Xi has twice received him out of the capital. Xi emphasised the two sides should look at the big picture of China-India relationship from a strategic angle and ensure their relationship continue to move forward in a positive direction.
"The friendship between the two countries should continue to grow like the Yangtze and Ganges flowing forward forever," China's state-run CCTV quoted Xi as saying. "We see a fast pace and bright future for China-India cooperation," Xi told Modi, who is in China on his fourth visit after he came to power in 2014. "China and India need to maintain a strong focus on national development, deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, work together for our respective national revitalisation to build the stability, development, prosperity and make positive contributions for global peace and development," Xi said, adding that in the past five years China-India relations have maintained a good momentum.
"India and China have a combined population of 2.6 billion which provides enormous potential for development. Our two countries' influence in the world and region is steadily on the rise, looking ahead we see a fast pace and bright future for China-India cooperation," Xi told Modi. "As we meet, the international security is at a crucial period of adjustment. China and India are both important engines for global growth and we are central pillars for promoting a multi-polar and globalised world. A good China-India relationship is an important and positive factor for maintaining peace and stability in the world," he added.
Xi's comments assume significance as it came at a time when the US and other major economies have taken a number of protectionist measures. The Trump administration has recently announced hefty import tariffs on aluminium and steel besides about USD 50 billion worth of Chinese imports across 1,300 categories of products to counter China's trade practices.
India maintains that protectionism in all its forms should be rejected. Tomorrow, the two leaders will resume their one-on-one talks. They will begin their day with a walk around the East Lake and then go for a ride in a double decker boat and end their first-ever informal summit with a one-on-one lunch.