Xi begins India visit in Modi’s home state

BRICS

Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi In this handout photograph received from the Gujarat Information Bureau on September 17, 2014, China’s President Xi Jinping (L) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands at the Hyatt Hotel in Ahmedabad. Chinese President Xi Jinping has begun his three-day visit to India in Ahmedabad, home city of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP PHOTO/GUJARAT

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat on Wednesday, starting his three-day visit to the South Asian neighbor.

It is Xi’s first trip to India since he took office in March 2013, and also the first state visit in eight years by a Chinese president to the country.

Xi is scheduled to attend a few joint events with Modi in Ahmedabad Wednesday afternoon before flying to the capital New Delhi in the evening.

Ahmedabad is the center of textile industry and a commercial hub in India. It is the largest city of Gujarat and also the former capital of the state.

Modi had served as chief minister of Gujarat for over a decade before being sworn in as the country’s prime minister in May.

Shortly after Modi’s landslide victory in the election, China sent Foreign Minister Wang Yi to New Delhi in June as special envoy of President Xi, delivering a message that the world’s two most populous nations are “natural partners” rather than “rivals.”

Xi and Modi had their first meeting in July in Brazil at the sixth summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS, which Xi described as “feeling like old friends.”

The day Xi arrived in India coincides with Modi’s 64th birthday.

During his stay, Xi will also meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and other political leaders. Xi will deliver a speech in New Delhi on China-India relations and China’s South Asia policy.

China is India’s largest trading partner, while India is China’s biggest in South Asia, with two-way trade totaling about $65.5 billion last year.

The two emerging powerhouses have set a target of increasing their annual bilateral trade volume to $100 billion by 2015, as they are seeking to step up trade and investment engagement.

India is the last stop of Xi’s four-nation tour in Central and South Asia, which has already taken him to Tajikistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. In Tajikistan, he also attended a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).