July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to resolve a border dispute that has hampered economic ties between the world’s most populous countries, an Indian official said.
In Modi’s first one-on-one meeting with a major world leader since winning the biggest Indian mandate in 30 years, Modi told Xi that an amicable resolution would set an example for the world on how to peacefully resolve conflicts. Both leaders are attending the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.
“There was a need to find a solution to the boundary question, and maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border was essential even while India and China work to resolve this issue,” Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, told reporters after the meeting.
China has sought to boost ties with India as relations with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines have deteriorated over territorial disputes. India and China, home to more than a third of the world’s population, have seen sporadic border clashes over the past five decades with the latest one leading to a three-week standoff last year.
Xi called for “negotiated solutions” to the border dispute with India at an early date, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. He also invited India to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member and said the two countries should work together to give developing countries a stronger voice in setting global rules, it said.
While the border dispute is unlikely to be solved anytime soon, it won’t hinder closer ties between India and China, according to Sun Shihai, executive vice president of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies in Beijing.
“Although the border disputes remain, the dialog can continue,” Sun said by phone. “This will not be an obstacle for the development of bilateral relations.”
Xi is scheduled to visit India in September and invited Modi to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, or APEC, in China two months later. The Chinese foreign minister visited India last month, while India’s vice president and army chief have traveled to China since May.
Modi urged more Chinese investment in infrastructure and called to rectify a trade imbalance with its second-biggest commercial partner. India’s $34 billion trade deficit with China is its largest with any country, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“References were made to industrial parks and the need to address the trade deficit,” Akbaruddin said. “On his part, President Xi did acknowledge, for the trade ties to be sustainable, there must be a more balanced approach to trade.”
Modi in his election campaign this year promised to take a harder line on protecting India’s borders with China than his predecessor as the two nations aim to end troop clashes that have hobbled their relationship since the 1962 war. Modi warned China to drop its “territorial mindset” in February and said his country’s weakness had encouraged China’s army to enter Indian territory last year.
Almost three quarters of Indians say they are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to military conflict, with 9 percent saying they weren’t concerned at all, according a survey published by Pew Research Center yesterday. Pew spoke to 2,464 Indians between April and May and the survey has a 3.1 percent margin of error.
Some 31 percent of Indians have a favorable view of China, down four percentage points from last year, and less than a quarter said China’s growing economy was a good thing, the survey found. By comparison, 55 percent of Indians had a favorable view of the U.S. and 39 percent had a favorable view of Russia, the survey showed.
India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometers (about 15,000 square miles) of territory in Jammu and Kashmir, while the government in Beijing lays claim to 90,000 square kilometers of land in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Two Chinese helicopters crossed into Indian airspace twice in the past three months, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley said in a written reply to parliament today. Incursions occur due to a “differing perception” of where the border lies, he wrote.
Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is prepared for a final settlement of the border issue and will invest more in Indian high-speed train networks and manufacturing if regulatory hurdles were eased. The countries agreed to relax visa rules to boost tourism during his visit.
“China-India cooperation is like a massive buried treasure waiting to be discovered,” Wang said on June 10. “The potential is massive.”
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