* A downpour in Xiamen forced the Chinese and Indian officials to scrap the red-carpet welcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the tarmac. The Indian side had prepared to receive him in sync with Chinese protocol officers at the airport. But at the last minute, the plan was changed because it was decided that Modi would use an aerobridge so that he would not get drenched.
* Jagjit Singh’s ghazals played at the Wyndham Grand, the hotel where Modi is staying. “Hothon se chhu lo tum” was the welcome song. The officials said they had no role in it. The hotel management had organised it with the help of the Indian community.
* After Modi went to his room, top officials were seen having dinner in a glass-walled restaurant on the ground floor of the Wyndham. National security advisor Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar, Indian ambassador Vijay Gokhle, joint secretary in the PMO Gopal Baglay, MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had dinner, as onlookers peeped in.
… but no firewall
* All delegates, officials and journalists allowed to be at the event have been granted rare and unrestricted access to WiFi networks at the BRICS venues and hotels. Hitherto inaccessible websites such as Google, Gmail, and Facebook no longer require the services of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is a shift in policy from the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing earlier this year.
Then, the Great Firewall of China was in place.
* At the airport, bus stands, taxi stands, hotels and conference centres, one sight was common: college students in all-white. Faced with the task of ferrying so many delegates, the Fujian provincial government turned to students for help. One volunteer, who preferred anonymity, said: “I had to learn about food, translating the name of the dish from Chinese to English and also about the culture of people from BRICS countries.”