Beijing | Prime Minister Narendra Modi will do a repeat of his Madison Square Garden act during his next month’s visit to China that will make him the first Indian leader to address the communist nation’s burgeoning Indian community, whose numbers have swelled to 45,000.
As diplomats held hectic consultations to work out a wide agenda for his high-profile visit, Indian associations in different Chinese cities sent out invites to their members asking them to be ready to assemble in Shanghai to take part in the meeting with the Prime Minister to be held in the second or third week of May.
Going by the invites, the event has been modelled on the ones addressed by Modi at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden and Allphones Arena in Sydney that made waves in India and around the world. He is also expected to address a similar event in Toronto next week during the third and final leg of his three-nation tour to France, Germany and Canada.
It is perhaps a novel effort by an Indian Prime Minister to attempt the same in China as the numbers of the Indian professionals and businessmen were on a steady rise in the dragon country regarded as hostile for decades after the 1962 war. According to an official estimate prepared during the February visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, about 45,000 Indians currently work and reside in China.
Though this will be Modi’s first visit as Prime Minister, he is a familiar figure in China as he made several visits here as Chief Minister of Gujarat to study the Chinese developmental model and to scout for investments from the world’s second largest economy.
Modi’s May visit will have several new facets, especially the Hometown Diplomacy as he would travel to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s home province Shaanxi. Xi was expected to host Modi in the city of Terracotta Warriors in a reciprocal gesture to the latter hosting him in Gujarat during the Chinese leader’s India visit in September last year.
Pictures of Xi and Modi sitting in a swing in Ahmedabad and the two operating ‘charkha’, the spinning wheel, at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram figure prominently in the Chinese official media highlighting Xi’s visit abroad. The picture of Xi along with his celebrity singer wife Peng Liyuan sitting in the Gujarati swing also made waves in China’s popular internet media.
In a rare gesture, Xi wants to host a similar cultural event for Modi, showcasing historic past of Shaanxi’s capital Xian, especially its links with India, as famous Buddhist monk Xuan Zang, who travelled to India 2,000 years ago and brought Buddhism to China, spent his final years there.
Xian houses the Wild GoosePagoda, built to highlight Xuan Zang’s efforts to visit India in 645 AD through the ancient Silk Road. The monk returned home after a 17 year-long sojourn with precious Buddhist scriptures. Besides, the city also formed part of the centre of Xi’s mega Silk Road plan as it was declared origin for China’s strategic project.
Though officials are tight-lipped about the programme, Modi was expected to travel to Xian like the way Xi landed in Ahmedabad starting his India visit. After that, Modi is expected to travel to Beijing where he would hold talks with the Chinese leadership on a host of issues, including the border dispute, address Chinese investors and later travel to Shanghai to address the Indian community besides meeting local leaders.
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