Mamallapuram was under a thick security cover on Friday as banners welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping in Tamil, English, and Chinese for their second informal meeting were seen around the historic seaside town.
More than 5000 policemen kept a watch over the town, about 50km from Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai, as the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard deployed their warships at some distance from the shore in Mamallapuram.
The police have intensified patrolling and the town famous for its group of monuments and declared as Unesco World Heritage Site, is under the close watch of 800-odd close-circuit television or CCTV cameras.
The entry points to Mamallapuram, famous for its temples and monuments built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries, are being monitored throughout and temporary police posts have been set up.
Mamallapuram, which is also known as Mahabalipuram, has already been declared out of bounds for tourists over the last few days. Surfing and fishing along the coast have also been banned by the police before the summit this weekend.
The World Heritage Site and even private properties along the route to be used by the motorcade of the two leaders have been given a fresh coat of paint and makeshift metal and wood barricades were put up at several places for people to stand behind while the convoy drives by.
The Mamallapuram temple complex to be visited by the two leaders has been sanitised and barricades have been put up on the beach while a make-shift wall has been erected along its compound on the side where a string of shops are located.
The wall towering over the shops, which will remain shut, sported ‘rangoli’ artwork in some stretches with the background painted in red colour.
The monuments have been thoroughly cleaned and specially illuminated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Temple tour, lunches and dinners
Prime Minister Modi and Xi will have one-on-one exchanges for several hours as they take a look at an ancient temple complex, and spend time at Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury beachfront resort, on Friday and Saturday.
The meeting will be held after their first informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year, which came in the wake of the 73-day military stand-off at Doklam in 2017.
The two leaders will have a guided tour of Arjuna’s Penance, Panch Rathas and the Shore Temple soon after arriving in Mamallapuram and watch a cultural performance by a troupe from Kalakshetra Foundation, a cultural academy founded in 1936.
Xi had given him a personal tour of the Hubei Provincial Museum during PM Modi’s visit to Wuhan.
Modi will host a dinner, which will again give the two leaders some more time together.
Modi and Xi will on Saturday have a meeting at Machaan at Fisherman’s Cove, overlooking the Bay of Bengal, before they hold delegation-level talks at the Tango Hall in the same resort.
A lunch hosted by Modi will be another opportunity for one-on-one discussions before Xi departs for the Chennai airport a little after 12pm.
There will be no signing of agreements or a joint communiqué, though Modi and Xi – meeting for the third time this year – are expected to discuss additional confidence-building measures (CBMs) for peace and tranquillity on the border, and India will also raise the need to comprehensively tackle terrorism, including the training, financing and support for terror groups.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade and the deficit of more than $50 billion that is a concern for India, the Indo-Pacific, reforms of the UN, and selective actions that are affecting global trade arrangements.