BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping will make his first official visit to rival Asian giant India next week, officials said Tuesday, as expanding trade between the two remains overshadowed by territorial disputes.
The announcement came just a week after India’s recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Tokyo pledging to take ties to a “new level”, a move seen as an attempt to shore up regional alliances to counter China’s increasing might.
Xi’s four-nation trip begins this Thursday in the central Asian state of Tajikistan, before going on to the South Asian island states of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, culminating in India, the Chinese foreign ministry said on its website.
It did not give specific dates but said the tour would finish on September 19.
Ties between India and China have long been clouded by suspicion over disputed territory in the Himalayas, which saw a brief border war in 1962.
Chinese troops last month advanced into disputed territory claimed by India, official sources said, raising tensions after a similar incident the previous year.
China is India’s biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totaling close to $70 billion. But India’s trade deficit with China has soared to over $40 billion from just $1 billion in 2001-02, Indian figures show.
New Delhi’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said Monday that India expected “substantial” results from Xi’s maiden visit.
Beijing sent its foreign minister Wang Yi to Delhi in June soon after right-wing Modi’s landslide election victory, delivering a message that India and China were “natural partners”.
After meeting Xi at a summit of the BRICS emerging economic powers in Brazil in July, Modi called for increased Chinese investment in India.