Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stepped-up cooperation with India during an informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid border tensions and a rivalry for influence with smaller neighbours that could determine dominance in Asia.
Xi greeted Modi at the provincial museum in the city of Wuhan on Friday at the start of two days of talks between the heads of the world’s two most populous nations.
“Conducting great cooperation by our two great countries can generate worldwide influence,” Xi was quoted as saying by state broadcaster CCTV. Xi said he hoped the meeting would “usher in a new chapter of China-India relations”.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar tweeted the leaders would “review the developments in our bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective”.
China-India relations date back centuries, but in recent decades have been characterised by competition for leadership in Asia.
The countries fought a border war in 1962 and last year engaged in a 10-week standoff in the neighbouring state of Bhutan.
New Delhi has also been alarmed by China’s moves to build strategic and economic ties with Indian Ocean nations including Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India’s longtime rival Pakistan.
China resents India’s hosting of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and its control of territory Beijing says belongs to it.
China claims some 90,000sq km of territory in India’s northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000sq km of its territory on the Aksai Chin Plateau in the western Himalayas.
The Wuhan summit should be seen as a conscientious attempt to steer ties in a new direction, said Wang Lian, a professor at Peking University’s School of International Relations.
“This meticulously planned meeting will offer the leaders more time to discuss current issues and the future blueprint for bilateral relations,” Wang said.