Modi gets a special welcome in Xi'an

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ancient Silk Road city of Xi'an yesterday, in a break with protocol that makes Mr Modi the first world leader to be hosted outside of capital Beijing.

Both men also scaled the Big Wild Goose Pagoda - built during the Tang Dynasty to hold the Buddhist scripts that Chinese monk Xuan Zang brought from India - often seen as a symbol of the historical links that anchor ties between the two ancient civilisations.

Their visit to the seven-storey pagoda - after Mr Modi inspected the terracotta warriors earlier in the day - echoed the call of Mr Xi for bilateral relations to be taken to greater heights.

"The conditions are present and the potential is huge for Sino-India ties to take a huge leap forward," he said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Mr Xi also stressed the need to view ties strategically and from a long-term development perspective, and for both states to work together on international issues.

"Hand in hand, we can push the international order towards a direction that is more just and reasonable," he said.

Mr Xi also touched on the need to increase economic interaction between the world's two largest emerging economies, increase mutual trust and manage differences properly, amid ties strained by geopolitical rifts and a festering border dispute. Greater cross-border interaction across various spheres such as culture, media and youth should also be promoted, he said.

Indian news network NDTV said the meeting lasted an hour, with thorny issues such as the border dispute surfacing.

Mr Modi - who will meet Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Dejiang in Beijing today before heading to Shanghai tomorrow - also voiced concerns about the US$46 billion (S$61 billion) economic corridor China is building through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a border area also claimed by India, NDTV said, quoting government sources.

Despite these differences, experts say ties remain healthy, as can be seen from the "special reception" China gave Mr Modi. Peking University's Sino-Indian expert Jiang Jingkui said it was important not to let a few disputes throw off the entire relationship, especially since both states are so historically and culturally linked.

"Especially since the 2008 global financial crisis, both countries have realised the potentially huge benefits that await if their large markets work together."

China and India are hoping to build upon earlier pledges for US$20 billion of Chinese investment in Indian railways, pharmaceuticals and industrial parks

This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
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