Modi invites China President Xi to visit India

NEW DELHI: India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit New Delhi this year, seeking stronger ties between the world’s two most populous countries, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

Modi extended the invitation during a phone conversation with China’s Premier Li Keqiang who had called to congratulate his new Indian counterpart on his election victory earlier this month.

“Prime Minister Modi extended through Premier Li an invitation to President Xi Jinping to pay a visit to India later this year,” a ministry statement said.

Li conveyed the “Chinese government’s desire to establish robust partnership with the new government of India for further development of relations between the two nations”, the statement said.

Modi said he wanted to work closer with the Chinese government to deal with any “outstanding issues in our bilateral relations” and “welcomed greater economic engagement between the two countries.”

The last visit from a Chinese head of state to India was Hu Jintao in 2012.

While there is heavy trade between India and China, relations are still dogged by mutual suspicion — a legacy of a brief border war in 1962.

The countries have held a series of talks to try to resolve their border dispute but the frontier still bristles with tension.

Modi, leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, took office on Monday after winning a landslide election victory that swept the left-leaning Congress from power after 10 years of rule.

In his first foreign policy test, Modi held landmark talks on Tuesday with his counterpart from Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, and leaders of other neighbours whom he invited to his swearing in ceremony.