India, China seek to boost economic ties in New Delhi meeting

India and China discussed boosting economic times and countering terrorism in the first formal talks between the two countries since Narendra Modi was elected the South Asian nation’s prime minister last month.

China-IndiaIndia’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on attracting more Chinese investment, potentially into industrial parks, Syed Akbaruddin, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman, said today at a briefing in New Delhi. He didn’t specify if the two sides talked about border disputes in their more than three-hour meeting, while adding “everything was discussed.”

“China is a neighbor with whom we share a long border. Our neighborhood is a major focus of our government,” Akbaruddin said. ‘The perennials of India-China engagement are well known,’’ he said. The two ministers “felt there was a tremendous untapped potential for growth of economic ties.”

Modi in his election campaign promised to take a harder line on protecting India’s borders with China than his predecessor as the two nations aim to end troop clashes that have hobbled their relationship for the last five decades. Modi warned China to drop its “territorial mindset” in February and said India’s weakness had encouraged China’s army to enter Indian territory last year.

Building Ties

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won the largest Indian parliamentary majority in 30 years. Modi held talks with neighboring countries, including arch-rival Pakistan, just after his inauguration, as he signaled that he would prioritize building ties close to home before focusing on relations with the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

“With China, Modi will be trying to balance trying to win their investment for things like infrastructure projects, and at the same time trying to reinforce the borders,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

India and China have sought to prevent their disagreements from affecting economic ties. China is India’s largest trading partner and their combined trade was $49.5 billion in the April- December period, according to Indian government data.

India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometers (about 15,000 square miles) of territory in Jammu and Kashmir, while the government in Beijing lays claim to 90,000 square kilometers of land in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.