BEIJING: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit China next week, Beijing said Tuesday, as New Delhi tries to balance its trade deficit with its neighbour despite a simmering border dispute.
It is Modi’s first visit to China as leader of its Himalayan neighbour, the world’s largest democracy and an Asian geopolitical rival, following his election victory last year.
Modi, of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will visit for three days from Thursday May 14, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement posted online.
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The trip follows a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in September, where the leaders of the world’s two most populous countries emphasised cooperation and business deals such as funding for railways.
China is India’s biggest trading partner with two-way commerce totalling close to $70 billion. But India’s trade deficit with China has soared from just $1 billion in 2001-02 to more than $40 billion, Indian figures show.
Experts say Modi must bridge the deficit by seeking greater access to the Chinese market, with the two sides targeting annual bilateral trade of $100 billion this year.
But relations are still dogged by mutual suspicion, a legacy of a brief, bloody border war in 1962 over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, areas of which Beijing claims as part of Tibet.
Both sides regularly accuse the other’s soldiers of crossing over into their territory.
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Modi warned China to shed its “expansionist mindset” at an election rally last year. China hit back, saying it “never waged a war of aggression to occupy any inch of land of other countries”.