China picked Mamallapuram

As the AIADMK government gave Mamallapuram and Chennai a fresh coat of paint and national security teams scoured the region, the reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the historic town for his China diplomacy has stirred interest among observers. It now comes to light that it was China that picked Mamallapuram as the venue for the second informal Modi-Xi Jinping summit and India agreed instantly.

A source privy to a meeting about two months ago among China experts said former Chinese ambassador to India and currently vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui, who also participated in the meet, picked Mamallapuram. Zhaohui, a student of Chinese scholar Xu Fancheng in Auroville for several years, was well aware of the historical importance of Mamallapuram and its ancient links to China. The present ambassador to India Sun Weidong had also participated in the meeting. When China made known its choice of venue for the second informal summit, Modi concurred immediately, said the source.

The historic sea-side town near Chennai seemed an apt choice for China drawing on its ancient connect — the 8th century security pact between the then Pallava king and Chinese emperor. For Modi, it could not have been more strategic given BJP’s political plans for Tamil Nadu.

Mamallapuram’s historic links with China apart, Tamil Nadu that spurned Modi in the recent Lok Sabha elections is on BJP’s priority list. Choosing a Tamil Nadu venue for the summit fits perfectly within BJP’s framework, admitted party national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao. “The perception is that BJP is a Hindi party. With Modi’s increased visits to Tamil Nadu, the understanding will grow that the state is politically very important to us,” he said.

State BJP leaders are upbeat. “So far, the rhetoric has been ‘Go back Modi’. But, with DMK chief M K Stalin thanking Modiji for choosing Mamallapuram as the venue for the summit, it is now ‘Welcome Modi’. This is a game changer,” said Madurai-based BJP state secretary Prof R Srinivasan.

On Thursday, ahead of the October 11-12 summit, BJP leaders from across Tamil Nadu will congregate in Chennai, hinting at the party’s possible game plan to use the Modi-Xi Jinping summit to give the PM more visibility in the region and spruce up his image as part of its Mission 2021 (TN assembly elections) and 2024 (Lok Sabha polls).

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