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China demonstrated economic might at ‘Wuhan’! India has now chosen ‘Mahabalipuram’ as a subtle reminder of India’s successful military exploits on Chinese land!

The mighty Pallava ‘VatapiKondan’ Narasimha Varma, who remained Invincible through out his life time, began the construction of Port city Mamallapuram.

His great grand son Narasimha Varma the second, completed the port city with addition of Shore temple to its architectural marvel.

Mahabalipuram which stands proof to his grand military exploits is now the venue for the second informal summit between leaders of India and China.

Wuhan was picked by President Xi Jinping as the venue in 2018 to demonstrate China’s economic might.

India has chosen Mamallapuram as a symbol of India’s ‘soft power’.

The second informal summit (Mamallapuram summit) between leaders of India and China is scheduled to take place on October 2019. At Wuhan summit 2018, both sides agreed that such informal meetings will be held regularly to propel the future direction of India-China relations.

The decision was taken by the leaders of both India and China to give strategic direction to their militaries, to manage differences on the border and not raise tensions.

Cooperation between China and India in Afghanistan was  discussed at the summit.

Both India and China recognized the common threat posed by terrorism and the need to oppose it in all its forms and manifestation.

These informal meetings are aimed at ensuring higher levels of strategic communications between India and China.

Why Mamallapuram was chosen to host the 2nd edition of the informal summit?

The sea port, Mamallapuram for a long time, had a relationship with China and had even sent envoys there during Pallava rule.

As preparations are on the upswing for the meet between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a peep into archaeological evidences shows links had existed about 2000 years ago Between Mamallapuram, the venue of the summit, and China.

The ancient Tamil work “Pattinapalai,” a post-Sangam period work, cites the anchorage of a Chinese ship on the eastern coast of ancient Tamil Nadu.

Authored by UrutthiranKannanar, the work refers to a ship “tungunaavay,” in Tamil, which is nothing but a big Chinese vessel “Zunk,”

Emperor Wei  (185-149 BC) encouraged traders and the Chinese text Ch’ien Han Shu of the first century refers to Kancheepuram as “Huang-Che” and Chinese kings had sent presents to the then ruler of Kancheepuram,

Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram in the 7th century AD and he, no doubt, reached the ancient port town of Mamallapuram and then continued his journey to the temple town.

Soft Power:

As Wuhan highlights, China’s economic resilience and might. Mamallapuram exudes the Indian “soft power”.

In the 8th century, the Pallava dynasty under the  Pallava king Rajasimhan, or Narasimha Varma II, had a security pact with the Chinese.

According to the pact the Chinese had sought his help to counter Tibet, which had by then emerged as a strong power posing a threat to China.

It couldn’t be anymore appropriate to chose Mahabalipuram, which is a reminder of the military might, valour and a strong political dominance of ancient India over China.

Though Wuhan summit was started with enthusiasm, however, little has changed as far as India-China relations are concerned.

The disputed border between the two countries remains an issue of concern.

In spite of cooperation in Afghanistan, the China-Pakistan axis has sought to sideline India from Afghanistan peace process.

The geopolitical backdrop of Mamallapuram Summit

After the Wuhan Summit, many things have changed, altering the circumstances surrounding India-China relations. For example:

Due to Trade war, relations between China and the U.S. have sharply deteriorated.

While in 2018, the China-Russia axis appeared to be a new strategic alignment, which has been reset to some extent by India:

India’s relations with Russia have acquired a fresh dimension, incorporating economics alongside a longstanding military relationship.

India’s line of credit to develop Russia’s Far East has fundamentally changed the nature of India-Russia relations.

Also, a new triangular relationship of Russia, India and Japan, appears to be altering equations in the East Asian region.

India also has other reasons to be more optimistic than a year ago.

India’s relations with the U.S. have attained a new high.

The Quad (the U.S., India, Japan and Australia) has gained a new lease of life.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has also come under increasing attack, due to debt trap diplomacy (China taking the lease of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for 99 years, in lieu of its debt).

Way Forward

China will be wary of India’s efforts in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

India is going to conduct “all arms integrated” exercise ‘codenamed Changthang Prahar (assault)’ in a “super high altitude” in Ladakh.

The reopening of the Advanced Landing Ground at Vijoynagar in Arunachal Pradesh for the use of military aircraft.

Also, a proposed major combat exercise in Arunachal Pradesh, in which the new Integrated Battle Groups will be seen in operation.

Therefore, India needs to proceed with the utmost caution that ‘Wuhan spirit’ doesn’t get undermined.

Chinese domestic concern: Shocks in domestic equity and currency market, concerns of Internal security situation in Tibet, Hongkong protest, a trade war with us has affected its domestic environment.

The subtle move by India about the changing fortunes of nations is going to give effective hint to China. This fits perfectly in the ongoing narrative as well given the kind of stance that China has taken over the Kashmir issue ever since India abrogated Article 370 thereby revoking its special status.

Modi government had reminded China of its internal issues without making any particular references. India also made it clear that it doesn’t believe in interfering in the internal matters of other counties and also expected other countries to do likewise. India has therefore, by choosing Mamallapuram sent out a very subtle yet significant hint to China without even referring to any of China’s internal affairs.

India is taking a leaf out of the oriental philosophical book “Art of war” by Sun Tzu which says

“Subduing the enemy without fighting”.


Dr. Sindhu Prashanth

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