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India- China Informal Summit at Mahabali

  Jun 22, 2020

India- China Informal Summit at Mahabalipuram

What is the context? 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in the ancient coastal town of Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu for a second Informal Summit.
  • The two countries convened their first Informal Summit in central China’s Wuhan in April 2018, where they exchanged views on issues of global and bilateral significance.

What are the outcomes of the summit?

  1. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations the two countries will organise 70 activities including a conference on a ship voyage that will trace the historical connection between the two civilisations.
  2. A high- level economic and trade dialogue mechanism will be established with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations.
  3. Mutual investments in identified sectors will be encouraged through the development of a manufacturing partnership.
  4. Sister- state relations will be established between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province.

What are Informal Summits?

  • They allow for “direct, free and candid exchange of views” between countries, something that may not be possible to do through formal bilateral and multilateral meetings that are agenda driven, where specific issues are discussed, and outcomes are more concretely defined.
  • They are impromptu in the sense that they take place when a need for them is perceived by the concerned nations.

Wuhan Summit and Mahabalipuram Summit: A comparison

Wuhan Summit 2018 


  • Since the Doklam Standoff, there have been no high level meetings between India and China. 
  • An informal summit was thus called to improve bilateral ties and to prevent another standoff at the border. 
  • The summit had no fixed agenda so that a wide range of issues could be covered. 

Significance of the summit: 

  • The very decision by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to spend two days in the city for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi sends out a message to Chinese business and political classes that ties with India have the highest approval. 
  • The summit has shown that despite bilateral and geopolitical differences, India and China can resolve differences peacefully and through prolonged dialogue. 
  • The summit’s outcomes may have been limited but are very valuable to stabilise the relationship. 
  • It has underlined the necessity of an entente cordiale between the two countries, which have become increasingly distrustful of each other. 

Major Takeaways: 

  1. Both the countries have decided to “issue strategic guidance to their militaries to strengthen communication” in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs, essentially to avoid another Doklam-like confrontation 
  2. They have addressed measures to balance the ballooning trade deficit of about $52 billion (of about $84 billion bilateral trade), mostly by encouraging agricultural and pharmaceutical exports to China 
  3. Both the countries discussed a joint project in Afghanistan.This proposed joint economic project in Afghanistan could be instrumental in mitigating the trust deficit between the two sides. 
  4. They attempted to reduce the heat over unresolved issues and so-called “irritants” in the relationship, such as China’s block on India’s NSG membership bid or the UN’s terror designation for Pakistan-based groups, and India’s opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative or its use of the Tibet issue by strengthening the existing mechanisms of dialogue. 

Positive changes after the summit: 

  • A statement was made by the Chinese vice foreign minister that China will not push India to join its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to connect countries Asia, Europe and Africa amid India's persistent reservations on Xi’s mega project on the grounds of China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and financing patterns. 
  • Chinese business and industrial houses could now choose India as destination for greenfield projects and not just mergers and acquisitions. 

Mahabalipuram Summit 2019


  • Mahabalipuram meeting did take place at a time when the relationship between the two nations was passing through a rather stressed and tensed time was important.
  • India scrapped Article 370, which gave special status to the state. This issue happened right before the summit, and many believed that India should raise this matter with China. But it was not even a part of the discussion.

Significance of the summit:

  • The most important takeaway from the informal summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping at Mamallapuram, formerly Mahabalipuram, the second since Wuhan that happened in April 2018 is that the two biggest nations with a deep civilisational legacy could successfully explore the areas of detente and cooperation independently of the third party influences.
  • The scale of welcome accorded to the Chinese President reflected the cultural content of Indian hospitality that would not go unnoticed in terms of the message of willingness to work for mutually beneficial relationship that it put out for the visiting dignitary.
  • It is an advance over Wuhan and has established a bilateral grid that suits the security and economic strategy of India.

Major Takeaways:

  1. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations the two countries will organise 70 activities including a conference on a ship voyage that will trace the historical connection between the two civilisations.
  2. A high- level economic and trade dialogue mechanism will be established with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations.
  3. Mutual investments in identified sectors will be encouraged through the development of a manufacturing partnership.
  4. Sister- state relations will be established between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province.
  5. The 'Chennai connect' sets the tone for future discussions. Here, the two leaders agreed to set up a new mechanism to have better cooperation in trade and defence.


  • In a nutshell, the two summits acknowledge that India and China were not 'adversaries' but two large economic powers open to a healthy competition in a multipolar world.
  • The big picture is that China could no more afford to take India for granted, that international relations today primarily weighed in for peace and development and that 'checks and balances' were now recognised as a legitimate instrument for preventing 'military' conflicts in the post- Cold War era.

What is Mahabalipuram’s China connection?

  • Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram, 56 km south of Chennai on the Tamil Nadu coast had ancient links with Buddhism and China through the maritime outreach of the Pallava dynasty.
  • The name Mamallapuram derives from Mamallan, or “great warrior”, a title by which the Pallava King Narasimhavarman I (630-668 AD) was known. It was during his reign that Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist monk-traveller, visited the Pallava capital at Kanchipuram.
  • Narasimhavarman II (c.700-728 AD), also known as Rajasimhan, built on the work of earlier Pallava kings to consolidate maritime mercantile links with southeast Asia.
  • Narasimhavarman II sent a mission to the Tang court in 720 AD.
  • The emissaries of the Pallava king sought the permission of Emperor Xuangzong to fight back Arab and Tibetan intrusions in South Asia.
  • Pleased with the Indian king’s offer to form a coalition against the Arabs and Tibetans, the Chinese emperor bestowed the title of ‘huaide jun’ (the Army that Cherishes Virtue) to Narayansimha II’s troops.
  • The Descent of the Ganga/Arjuna’s Penance, a rock carving commissioned by Narasimhavarman I, with its depiction of the Bhagirathi flowing from the Himalayas, may serve as a reminder of the geography of India-China relations, and their shared resources.

During the reign of Cholas:

  • Tamil-Chinese links continued after the Pallavas, flourishing under the Cholas as the Coromandel coast became the entrepot between China and the Middle East. The links extended to a wider area beyond Mahabalipuram, through a layered history that has left a rich tapestry of society, culture, art and architecture, which is diverse and complex, and reaches up to modern times.
  • The trading missions that the Cholas sent to the Song court included Muslims.
  • A trader named Abu Qasim was second-in-command of a mission sent in 1015; the next mission, in 1033, included one Abu Adil. 

About Mamallapuram

  • Mamallapuram, also called as Mahabalipuram or Seven Pagodas, is a town that lies along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, 60 km south of Chennai.
  • The town’s religious centre was founded by a 7th-century Hindu Pallava King—Narasimhavarman, also known as Mamalla—for whom the town was named.
  • It contains many surviving 7th- and 8th-century Pallava temples and monuments, chief of which are the sculptured rock relief popularly known as “Arjuna’s Penance,” or “Descent of the Ganges,” a series of sculptured cave temples, and a Shiva temple on the seashore.
  • The town’s Five Rathas, or monolithic temples, are the remnants of seven temples, for which the town was known as Seven Pagodas. The entire assemblage collectively was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Facts about Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram:

  • Mamallapuram was a sea-port during the time of Periplus (1st century AD) and Ptolemy (AD 140).
  • The towns of mallapuram were found 2000 years ago.
  • It was a very big port, brought many traders to India.
  • This was the second capital of great Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman-I (AD 630-68).
  • The monuments at Mahabalipuram are situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu,India.
  • There are several temples at the Mahabalipuram i.e. Krishna Cave Temple, Mahishasuramardini Mandapa, Araha Cave Temple, Panchapandava Cave Temple and structural temples includes the Shore Temple and the Olakkannesvara Temple.
  • The monuments at Mahabalipuram got the status of UNESCO’S World Heritage Site in 1984.
  • The Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture is taking care of the conservation work at this site.
  • Ministry of tourism is running a project namely "Integrated Development of Mamallapuram" for its preservation.

Shore Temple

The Shore Temples at Mahabalipuram, a coastal village 50 km south of Madras, was constructed during the reign of Rajasimha in the 7th century. The temple with its beautiful polygonal dome saved the statues of Lord Vishnu and Shiva. These beautiful temples damaged by wind.  This temple is declared as world heritage sites since 1984.

Ratha' Cave Temple

The incredible Ratha cave temples of Mahabalipuram were constructed by the Pallava king Narsimha during the 7th and 8th centuries. The beauty of the rock-cut sculpture of the temple is reflection of grand architecture of Pallava rulers. This temple is known for its Rathas (temples in the form of chariots), Mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges', with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.

There are 8 rathas at Mahabalipuram, out of which 5 are named after the 'Pandavas' (five brothers) of Mahabharata and one after Draupadi. The five rathas that can be seen are Bhima Ratha, Dharmaraja Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakul Sahadev Ratha and Draupadi Ratha. The style of construction of these temple was based on Buddhist viharas and chaityas style. The unfinished three-storey Dharmaraja ratha is the largest. The Draupadi ratha is the smallest; it is one-storey and has an interesting thatch-like roof. The Arjuna ratha is dedicated to Lord Shiva while Draupadi Ratha is dedicated to Goddess Durga.

Olakkannesvara Temple

The Olakkannesvara Temple ("flame eye"; commonly Olakkanatha; also known as, "the Old Lighthouse") is in Mahabalipuram in Kancheepuram District in Tamil Nadu, India.  It is also a structural temple Like the Shore Temple. It was built during the 8th century. It is situated exactly above the Mahishasuramardini mandapa on a hillock, from where the town can be seen. It is dedicated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. This temple is also counted in the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram which were designated as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 1984. This temple is referred as ‘Mahishasura Temple’ by mistakes occasionally.