Chinese President Xi Jinping begins India visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) accompanied with his wife Peng Liyuan (L), and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two men shake hands in Ahmedabad, India, 17 September 2014. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Xi Jinping (left) and Narendra Modi are expected to boost trade and investment ties

China's President Xi Jinping has begun his first official visit to India for talks expected to focus on improving trade and boosting Chinese investment.

He is expected to pledge billions of dollars in investment, including plans for Chinese-funded industrial parks.

President Xi's plane landed in Gujarat, home state of India's PM Narendra Modi, who has also vowed to deepen ties.

China is one of India's top trading partners but they vie for regional influence and dispute their border.

Mr Xi's visit comes amid unconfirmed reports in the Indian media of a new face-off on the border.

The reports said Indian troops had spotted their Chinese counterparts trying to construct a temporary road into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control (the de facto boundary) in the Ladakh region.

Despite the continuing tensions, trade between India and China has reached close to $70bn (£43bn) a year, although India's trade deficit has climbed to more than $40bn from $1bn in 2001-2002.

'Two bodies, one spirit'

Mr Xi flew in from Sri Lanka. He was greeted at Ahmedabad airport by Gujarat government officials and inspected a guard of honour.

He was then received at his hotel by Mr Modi, and in the evening was due to attend a banquet in his honour coinciding with Mr Modi's 64th birthday.

Mr Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for more than a decade before leading his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide win in May.

He is well known to the Chinese, after making five trips to China while in charge of Gujarat, and has said he would like to replicate China's manufacturing prowess in India.

During his three-day visit, Mr Xi is due to travel to Delhi to hold official talks with Mr Modi and meet other Indian leaders.

Writing in The Hindu newspaper ahead of his visit, Mr Xi said he appreciated Mr Modi's comment that "China and India are two bodies, one spirit".

"The combination of the 'world's factory' and the 'world's back office' will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market," he wrote.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Xi began his India visit in the western state of Gujarat

Indian media reports say China is expected to pledge funds to help India's creaky railway, manufacturing and infrastructure projects during Mr Xi's visit.

Earlier this month, Mr Modi's five-day trip to Japan was seen as an attempt by the two democracies to balance the rising weight of China across Asia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to raise public and private investment and financing from Japan to $33.6bn within five years, and Delhi and Tokyo set a target to double Japan's direct investment in India in that period from some $2bn last year.

Correspondents say Mr Xi is expected to pledge investments matching or exceeding Japan's - a sign, they say, of how Mr Modi has been able to leverage the rivalry between China and Japan to maximise gains for India.

The Chinese leader's visit is also being billed as a chance to reset often troubled relations between the world's two most populous countries, who disagree over the demarcation of several Himalayan border areas and fought a brief war in 1962.

Tensions over the issue still flare up from time to time and numerous rounds of border talks have been unsuccessful.

Relations have also been dogged over the years by China's backing for India's neighbour Pakistan.

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