NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has complained to China’s visiting president about border incursions, the government said on Thursday, as tensions on the remote mountainous frontier between Asia’s two superpowers threatened to overshadow a crucial summit.
As Xi Jinping hailed the potential of stronger ties between China and India to bring “peace and prosperity” to 2.5 billion people, local media reported that hundreds of troops were engaged in a stand-off in the northern Ladakh region.
The two countries have long been embroiled in a bitter dispute over their border, with both sides accusing soldiers of crossing over into the other’s territory.
The neighbors, now nuclear-armed, fought a brief but bloody war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas, and are still embroiled in a bitter dispute over the territory.
Agence France-Presse could not confirm the incursion reports, but a Ladakh lawmaker who asked not to be named said around 1,000 Chinese troops had crossed into the Indian side on Wednesday—as Xi began his visit.
“The government has sent reinforcements,” he told Agence France–Presse.
Foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Modi raised the issue on Wednesday, as Xi began his first official visit to India, and would do so again in formal talks on Thursday.
Modi has rolled out the red carpet for the Chinese leader, hosting a private dinner in a luxury riverside tent in his home city Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
India’s new leader is eager to secure Chinese funding to fulfill his election pledge to overhaul India’s crumbling infrastructure, which experts say has held back much-needed economic growth in the country of 1.2 billion people.
At an official welcome ceremony at the Indian president’s palace in central New Delhi, Xi hailed the benefits of stronger ties to “bring benefits to the 2.5 billion people in China and India.”
“During this visit, I hope to work with the Indian leadership to be strong advocates of China-India relations and to partner with each other to take our strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity to a higher plane,” he said.
Despite his hardline nationalist reputation, Modi moved quickly to engage with China after taking office in May, swiftly extending an invitation to Xi. He has also spoken of his admiration for China’s
China, meanwhile, is keen to foster warmer ties with its western neighbor at a time of heightened tensions with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations over disputed sea territory.
But while the two sides have been at pains to stress cooperation ahead of the visit, much remains that divides them.
Modi said during his election campaign that China would have to shed what he called its “expansionist mindset,” tapping into popular sentiment in India.