Chinese President Xi Jinping will start his first India visit on September 17 from Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that shares close business ties with Asia’s biggest economy.
Modi who turns 64 on that day can not only expect the Chinese leader to greet him in person, but also hope to together unwrap some big-ticket trade agreements as a large business delegation is accompanying Xi.
Though China’s growth has outstripped India’s, the two countries share close economic and historic ties. China is India’s biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totaling close to $70 billion. But India’s trade deficit with China has soared to more than $40 billion from just $1 billion in 2001-02.
The much-anticipated visit was announced a week after Modi pledged to take ties to a “new level” with Japan, a move seen as an attempt to counter China’s increasing might. Both India and Japan have territorial disputes with China.
The PM will be in Ahmedabad to receive Xi, who will be in India for three days at the last leg of a four-country visit that begins September 11.
The reception planned for the Chinese leader is almost along the lines of one that Modi got when he visited Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe broke protocol to receive him in the ancient city of Kyoto.
The visit details, not made public, were finalised when national security adviser Ajit Doval called on Xi in Beijing Tuesday. Welcoming Doval, Xi said his visit testified the great importance placed by Modi and the Indian government to the overall relationship with China.
Briefing Beijing-based Indian journalists, Doval said Modi wanted India to benefit from China’s “speed, scale and skills” and both the sides were working on “concrete deliverables”.
Modi invited Xi when the two met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil in July, Doval said. Xi had told Modi that Chinese companies were impressed with the swift-decision making of the Gujarat government headed by him.
It will be also be Modi’s first visit to the western state after taking over as the PM. Immediately after the Lok Sabha polls, he made a brief stopover at Vadodara to thank the voters. He later gave up the Vadodara seat in favour of Varanasi.
Doval also invited Xi to Vadnagar, the PM’s native village. Modi often cites Chinese traveller-scholar Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang’s visit to Vadnagar to emphasis the historic ties between the two countries. The Buddhist scholar spent around 17 years in India in 7th century AD and translated Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese. His detailed account of India is of immense historic value.
The day Xi arrives, President Pranab Mukherjee will be returning home from Vietnam, which is locked in a raging dispute with China over the South China Sea.
With inputs from Mahesh Langa, agencies