Wen, who arrives in the southern city of Bangalore on Saturday evening, is also expected to raise the issue of Tibet and the role of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, Chinese officials have said.

Tibetan activists who oppose Beijing's rule in the Himalayan territory have vowed to protest against Wen's visit, despite a police ban on demonstrations during the Chinese leader's stay.

 

Police on Saturday detained two Tibetan activists to prevent them from organising Tibetans in the city, police said.

 

"This is preventive custody. Now we don't foresee any protest being organised," said S Mariswamy, city police chief.

 

The visit comes as India seeks to improve relations with its larger neighbour, despite four decades of frosty relations, a brief border war and a nascent rivalry. China is also a longtime ally and the main supplier of military hardware to Pakistan - India's arch rival.

 

Relations to prosper

 

"While there are differences between us, there is also an increasingly greater realisation that there is enough space and opportunity in the region for both India and China to prosper," India's External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh said on Friday.

 

"While there are differences between us, there is also an increasingly greater realisation that there is enough space and opportunity in the region for both India and China to prosper"

K Natwar Singh,
Indian external affairs minister

China and India also compete on the economic front, and the Indian finance minister recently urged his country to take Beijing's lead and adopt reforms to attract foreign investment.

 

On Monday, Wen will hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

 

The two leaders are expected to discuss a more than 50-year-old border dispute over their 1030km border, parts of which are not demarcated.

 

Border issues

 

China and India went to war over the border row in 1962, but in recent years have been holding talks to resolve the matter peacefully. A consensus on how to settle the issue is expected to be reached during Wen's visit.

 

Meanwhile, the dispute has not interfered with efforts to promote trade and closer economic cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi.

 

The two countries are readying nearly 30 agreements to promote political, economic and cultural ties. India is also keen that the two countries coordinate in efforts for international economic contracts.

 

China Eastern Airlines is likely to announce a new direct flight linking the business hubs Mumbai (Bombay) and Shanghai. China is also keen on developing a free trade area between the two countries, which with their more than 2 billion population would make it the biggest free trade area in the world.

 

Trade agreements

 

India-China trade reached $13.6 billion in 2004, with India enjoying a comfortable trade surplus of $1.75 billion, Indian Commerce Ministry statistics show.

 

"Indian prowess in software and China's strengths in hardware can be combined to propel the regional economy to new levels"

J Gilbert, spokesman for Huwei Technologies

On Sunday, Wen will visit India's largest software exporter, Tata Consultancy Services, and China's largest telecommunication network technology provider, Huawei Technologies. He is also scheduled to meet scientists at the headquarters of the space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation.

 

"Indian prowess in software and China's strengths in hardware can be combined to propel the regional economy to new levels," J Gilbert, Huawei spokesman, said in Bangalore.