Prime Minster Narendra Modi pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping for an amicable settlement to their long-festering border dispute on Tuesday, saying successfully doing so would set an example for the world on peaceful conflict resolution.
In a first meeting between the two new leaders that focused on building a personal rapport, Xi said the two nations should join hands in setting global rules and invited India to attend a summit of the 21-nation APEC trade group in Beijing in November.
In a tweet, Modi termed the meeting, which went beyond schedule to about 80 minutes, as “very fruitful”. Later, his office issued a statement saying both sides emphasised on the need to find a solution to their vexed boundary dispute.
“The Prime Minister stressed the importance of strengthening mutual trust and confidence, and maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border," said the statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office.
China and India still claim vast swathes of each other's territories along their 4,057 km Himalayan border which has largely remained peaceful since a 1962 war, but their unsettled boundary remains the biggest single impediment to better relations, despite growing bilateral trade.
In their meeting, Xi also urged India to deepen its participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Chinese-led Eurasian initiative that also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. He said when China and India meet, the whole world watches.
But, despite the message of cooperation, the two countries’ lingering mutual distrust surfaced as they argued over who would host the headquarters of a proposed joint development bank of the BRICS group of emerging powers.
Read: PM arrives in Brazil to attend BRICS Summit
Modi and Xi are in the Brazilian seaside resort of Fortaleza to attend a summit of the BRICS nations, where starting the grouping’s joint bank is a top focus. The two leaders met on the side lines of the summit.
Modi raised the issue of cooperation to fight terrorism in the region. He also brought up the imbalance in bilateral trade that was greatly skewed in favour of China.
“President Xi did acknowledge that for trade ties to be sustainable, there needs to be a much more balanced approach to trade,” said Syed Akbaruddin, Indian foreign office spokesman.
“He acknowledged that there were possibilities of enhanced trade in services from India, possibilities of expansion of Indian exports and Chinese tourism to India as being areas of opportunities for deficit to be reduced.”
Watch video: Resolve border dispute on priority, says Modi to Chinese PM
Modi urged China to consider allowing Indian pilgrims an additional route for the Kailash -Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet, a suggestion President Xi "accepted for consideration, the PMO statement said.
Besides the long standing feud over their border, China and India are also engaged in a regional contest for influence and resources. Their political differences have made it difficult for the BRICS grouping to turn rhetoric to concrete action on coordinating policies.
The group consists of the two countries as well as Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
Negotiations to create the BRICS bank has dragged on for more than two years as Brazil and India fight China's attempts to get a bigger share in the lender than the others.
Russian and Indian officials have signalled that China's business hub, Shanghai, was the front-runner in the race to land the headquarters.
Read: Modi spells out foreign policy approach ahead of BRICS summit