India's prime minister says he made progress with China on trade deficit, border dispute

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BEIJING — On his first visit to China as India's prime minister, Narendra Modi said Friday that two days of talks yielded progress on 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.

The two countries also agreed to open a third consulate 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 they agreed to intensify confidence-building measures along the disputed Himalayan border over which they fought a bloody monthlong conflict in 1962. While any border agreement resolving the dispute looks unlikely, India and China at least appear to be willing to avoid incidents, such as Chinese incursions into what India considers its territory over the last two years.

"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 control dividing the country's frontier troops.

Li said the sides would continue to hold talks in search of a "fair resolution pending the final resolution of the boundary question."

Modi returned to the border issue in a speech at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, saying a "shadow of uncertainty " would hang over the frontier until India and China agreed on the line of control.

"That is why I have proposed resuming the process of clarifying it. We can do this without prejudice to our position on the boundary question," he said.

Modi was to visit the financial hub of Shanghai on Saturday before traveling on to Mongolia and South Korea.

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