BEIJING: On his first visit to China as India's prime minister, Narendra Modi said Friday that two days of talks with the country's leaders yielded progress on thorny issues ranging from a yawning trade imbalance to their continuing border dispute.
Following a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, Modi told reporters that the exchange, and another the previous day with President Xi Jinping, had advanced his goal of setting a new direction in relations between the Asian giants.
"Our conversations were candid, constructive and friendly. We covered all issues including those that smooth the relations. I asked China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back on realizing the full potential of our partnership," Modi said.
Modi's visit, coming less than a year since taking office, highlights the warming ties between the world's most populous nations — with a combined 2.6 billion people — despite their continuing rivalry and contrasting political systems. That trend has gained momentum by the personal authority enjoyed by Xi and Modi, both widely seen as their countries' strongest leaders in years.
Modi said the Chinese leaders had been sensitive to India's concerns about its growing trade deficit with China, which reached $48 billion last year.
As a partial solution, the sides agreed to create a high-level body dedicated to expanding economic relations in areas including infrastructure, information technology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and manufacturing, he said.
Following their meeting, Modi and Li presided at the signing of 24 agreements on cooperation in areas from high-speed rail to the establishment of a yoga college in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.
In another sign of growing ties, the sides also agreed to open a third consulate general in each other's countries. India's will be in the sprawling inland metropolis of Chengdu, and China's in Kolkata, the largest city on India's east coast.
Modi said the sides agreed to intensify confidence-building measures along the disputed Himalayan border over which they fought a bloody monthlong conflict in 1962.
"We both reiterated our strong commitment to make all efforts to maintain peace and tranquility in the border region," said Modi, adding he had again urged China to agree to clarify the line of actual control dividing the country's frontier troops.
Speaking alongside Modi, Li praised the Indian leader's commitment to boosting India's economy alongside its relations with China. While trade between them lags, it shows "huge potential," he said.
On the border issue, Li said the sides would continue to hold talks in search of a "fair resolution pending the final resolution of the boundary question."
While Modi's visit has yielded no breakthroughs on the border issue, it has scored a small success in being free of the Chinese incursions into territory India considers under its control that marred visits to India by Xi and Li over the past two years.
Modi was to give a speech at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University before visiting the financial hub of Shanghai on Saturday.