NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday to visit, seeking greater engagement between the world’s two most populous nations on trade and regional security.
Modi extended the invitation when he spoke by telephone with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who had called to congratulate him on his victory in India’s general election, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The Hindu nationalist won election by a landslide, ending a decade of rule by the Congress party that for most of the time since Indian independence in 1947 has been associated with a policy of non-alignment.
Li “conveyed the Chinese government’s desire to establish robust partnership” with India’s new government, the statement said.
Modi said he was keen to work closely with the Chinese leadership to deal with any outstanding issues, adding that he “welcomed greater economic engagement between the two countries”.
No official statement was issued in Beijing. The last Chinese head of state to visit India was Hu Jintao in 2012.
Modi invited South Asian leaders to his inauguration on Monday, turning the event into an informal regional summit. He is keen to rebalance relations between New Delhi and Beijing that have long been marked by suspicion.
China’s closest ally in the region is India’s traditional foe, Pakistan, whose prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, attended the inauguration.
China and India fought a brief Himalayan war in 1962 that India lost. Tensions have occasionally flared on their common border, which runs for a total of nearly 3,400 km (2,100 miles) and is still partly in dispute.
India runs a $40 billion bilateral trade deficit with China, and Modi is expected to seek greater market access to reduce that gap. China’s own embrace of an export-led model has helped its economy outgrow India’s fourfold since 1980.
Reporting by Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Nick Macfie