India's prime minister has arrived in China on a visit focused on boosting trade ties between Asia's rival superpowers as they attempt to set aside their historic mistrust.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the city of Xi'an on Thursday as he prepares to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping during a three-day trip aimed at promoting Indian exports and seeking more Chinese investment.

Ahead of his trip, Modi said he firmly believed "this visit to China will strengthen the stability, development and prosperity of Asia".

"I am confident my visit will lay the foundation for further enhancing economic co-operation with China in a wide range of sectors," he wrote on Twitter last week.

Modi is likely to seek abolition of non-tariff barriers as part of efforts to reduce a widening trade deficit and boost local industry.

New Delhi wants greater market access in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, IT services and farm products, including bovine meat.

China is India's biggest trading partner with two-way commerce totalling $71bn in 2014. Bilateral trade is estimated to reach a record $100bn by the end of this year.

But India's trade deficit with China has soared from just $1bn in 2001-02 to more than $38bn last year, Indian figures show.

Benjamin Herscovitch, a policy analyst for the Centre for Independent Studies in Beijing, told Al Jazeera that while the two nations share strong economic ties, they have contrasting political interests.

"Border disputes and the geostrategic issues more broadly are where their interests clash," Herscovitch said.

"India is starting to push into the South and East China seas, and is beginning to build warm relations with Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, countries which have historically had poor ties with China owing to territorial disputes.

"At the same time China is developing ties with Sri Lanka and reportedly pushing for a military base in Djibouti, in the Indian Ocean, and this is a scenario that India believes is its strategic backyard; and so there is a huge amount of strategic distrust despite the economic upside," he added.

Ties between the two nations have long been strained over a border dispute stemming from a brief, bloody war the two nations fought in 1962.

China claims more than 90,000sq km disputed by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. India says China occupies 38,000sq km of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.

In September, the two armies faced off in the Ladakh sector in the western Himalayas just as Xi was visiting India for the first summit talks with Modi.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies