New Delhi: As India gets ready to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for the 2nd India-China informal summit on October 11 and 12, many may feel intrigued as to why Mahabalipuram was zeroed in on as the venue of Modi-Xi meeting. The Indian authorities looked at many locations before finalising Mahabalipuram. Its ‘world heritage’ tag with a strong connection with China was what made the cut. Additionally, there was a piece of advice from PM Modi, “We need to showcase other parts of India as well”, a source said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is a history and culture enthusiast, which PM Modi could sense during the first informal summit in Wuhan. So, the lookout was for a venue with history, the source explained.

Mahabalipuram is a world heritage site and was listed in 1984. Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang had visited Kanchipuram during the Pallava dynasty and spoken about his visit in an elaborate way. Mahabalipuram has been a major port city during the Pallava kingdom in the 7th century.

Bodhidharma who had spread zen Buddhism to China had set sail from the coast of Tamil Nadu and landed in present-day Guangdong (Canton) Province. A small temple has been constructed at a place where he landed and former President Pranab Mukherjee paid a visit there in 2016.

And then there is the sea connect. There have been major trading connections between Pallava and Chola kingdoms of South India with the southeastern coast of China — particularly the province of Fujian and city of Quanzhou. China’s Song dynasty had maintained diplomatic ties with the Chola kingdom. It is interesting to know, President Xi has been the governor of Fujian (1999-2002).

A source said, “We were given clear guidance that we are to look for a venue outside the national capital. PM has been favouring the practice of taking foreign dignitaries outside the national capital and showcase other parts of India.”

Visiting global leaders like President Xi has been previously taken to Ahmadabad, French President Emmanuel Macron has been to Varanasi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been to Bengaluru, Japanese PM Shinzo abe has been to both Ahmedabad and Varanasi.
Overall, the idea was to showcase the ‘tourism potential of Tamil Nadu’.

The town, which according to one estimate is one of the most visited towns of south India, has “group of Hindu monuments” which are UNESCO world heritage sites. The monument consists of 7th and 8th century-old open-air rock sculptures such as Descent of the Ganges and the famous Shore temple.