The Chennai Connect
With focus on bridging trade deficit and building trust, the second informal India-China summit in Mamallapuram between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping heralded a new phase of cooperation in relationships between the two neighbours
In the backdrop of the 7th century rock-cut monuments and sculptures in the seaside temple town of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) on the outskirts of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, the leaders of India and China sipped coconut water and shared their hopes for a new phase in India-China relations, marked by win-win cooperation, greater trust and understanding of each other’s core interests and aspirations. The chemistry between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping shone anew as the former took his honoured guest around the Group of Monuments at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mahabalipuram, followed by a sumptuous informal dinner at the scenic Shore Temple.
The new dream
On the first day of their second informal summit on October 11, 2019, PM Modi and President Xi Jinping spent hours sharing their visions of national development and resurgence. The conversation focused on how PM Modi’s plan to create a new India by 2022 to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and Xi Jinping’s China dream opening new avenues for widespread cooperation between the two Asian neighbours. This informal conversation between the two leaders set the stage for wide-ranging delegation-level talks on October 12. The two leaders exchanged views in a candid and in-depth manner on India-China relations and major international and regional issues of common concern in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
The two-day talks culminated in the Chennai Connect, a resonant reaffirmation of the Wuhan spirit (the first India-China Informal Summit at Wuhan, China, in April 2018) of “managing differences prudently” and enlarging areas of cooperation across the spectrum, including economic, strategic and cultural.
Bridging Trade Deficit
The major takeaway from the summit was the decision to set up the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue mechanism to reduce trade deficit and enhance trade in goods, services and investment. The mechanism, to be chaired by India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and China’s Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, could be a potential game-changer for India-China economic relations, if China acts on its promise to open its market for Indian pharma and IT services. This mechanism will help India to reduce over $50 billion trade deficit with China and enable Indian companies to gain greater market access to Chinese market.
The two sides also agreed to encourage mutual investments in identified sectors through the development of a Manufacturing Partnership and flesh out its contours at the first meeting of the mechanism.
Another important outcome of the second informal summit was the deepening and consolidation of strategic communication so that mistrust can be averted on issues of core interest to both countries. In this regard, the two sides agreed to enhance security and military-to-military cooperation. The two countries are set to enhance their collaboration on combating the twin scourge of terrorism and radicalisation.
Taking the long view, the two rising Asian powers are also set to strengthen their global partnership by enlarging their cooperation on a wide array of cross-cutting issues, including climate change and sustainable development. Amid rising walls of protectionism, the two countries decided to “strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system” and to “work together for open and inclusive trade arrangements that will benefit all countries.”
Building on the Wuhan summit, which led to the setting up of High-level India-China People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges Mechanism, the Chennai summit provided a fresh momentum to positioning people at the heart of this burgeoning partnership. The two leaders agreed that public opinion should be rallied to broad-base the relationship. In this context, the two sides decided to hold 35 events each in their respective countries to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. “The two leaders have decided to designate 2020 as Year of India-China Cultural and People to People Exchanges and agreed that the 70th anniversary of the establishment of India-China relations in 2020 will be fully utilized to deepen exchanges at all levels including between their respective legislatures, political parties, cultural and youth organizations and militaries,” said the statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Discussions & more
Both leaders deemed it important to enhance dialogue in order to foster cultural understanding between the two peoples.
Both agreed they can work together to enhance understanding between cultures and civilisations in other parts of the world
The two exchanged views on outstanding issues, including on the boundary question. They welcomed the work of the Special Representatives and urged them to continue their efforts to arrive at a mutually-agreed framework for a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement