WUHAN: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a personal tour of a museum with President Xi Jinping on Friday as he began an ice-breaking visit to China in which the giant neighbours will seek to re-set troubled ties.
Modi is only spending about 24 hours in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, just months after a dispute over a stretch of their high-altitude Himalayan border rekindled fears of war between the two Asian nations.
Modi and Xi viewed antique Chinese artefacts at the Hubei Provincial Museum, where they also exchanged views on boosting dialogue between their two ancient civilisations and how to live peacefully together, China’s state news agency Xinhua said.
It showed a picture of the men shaking hands at the museum, but otherwise gave few other details. The two were due to have dinner together later, according to India’s foreign ministry.
On Saturday, they will take a walk around their guesthouse and then an hour-long boat-trip, informal settings mostly without aides that both sides are hoping will lead to frank discussions.
“President Xi and I will exchange views on a range of issues of bilateral and global importance. We will discuss our respective visions and priorities for national development, particularly in the context of current and future international situation,” Modi said in a Twitter post.
Indian and Chinese officials have said little about how exactly the summit will work and what will be discussed.
The museum in Wuhan, an industrial and university city with no obvious connection to India, was closed ahead of the visit by Modi and Xi. A plain clothes police office told a Reuters reporter to stop taking pictures. A sign at the entrance said the museum was closed for four days due to “equipment maintenance”.
In a commentary on Friday, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said the cultures of both China and India set great store on the concept of harmony, and pointed out the same museum had in 2014 held a special exhibition on India.
“The friendly exchanges between China and India have again and again seen composed moving stories, creating a model for inter-cultural dialogue in the world,” it said.
However the two nations’ differences are significant.
As well as disputes over stretches of a 3,500 km (2,200 miles) border, the Asian giants are bumping up against each other in the Indian Ocean and squabbling over Xi’s signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. India signalled as recently as Tuesday its opposition to the grand trade and transport plan because one of its branches runs through Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which India claims.
For its part, China has been concerned about US efforts to draw India into a maritime “quad” of democracies, including Japan and Australia.