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Chinese, Indian leaders to meet this week

© POOL/AFP/File | Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week

BEIJING (AFP) - 

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet in central China this week, Beijing announced Sunday, as the Asian powers work to improve strained ties.

The two leaders will hold an "informal summit" in the city of Wuhan on Friday and Saturday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.

"The summit will go a long way towards deeping the mutual trust between the two great neighbours," Wang said.

Xi and Modi "will set a general direction, identify new goals and create a new dynamic for the growth of China-India relations.

"This will benefit not just our two countries and peoples, but will also have an important and positive impact on peace and development in our region and the world at large," he said.

Swaraj and Wang met in Beijing before a meeting this week of foreign ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security grouping spearheaded by China and Russia.

China will host an SCO summit in June. India and its arch-rival Pakistan formally joined the bloc last year and Modi is expected to attend the summit, according to Indian media.

This week's meeting between Xi and Modi comes months after the two countries resolved a tense border standoff.

Indian and Chinese troops faced off last June on the Doklam plateau, an area high in the Himalayas claimed both by China and by India's ally Bhutan.

The dispute began when Chinese troops started building a road on the plateau and India deployed troops to stop the project.

A crisis was averted in August when the two nuclear-armed nations pulled back their troops.

India and China have a long history of mistrust as they jostle for regional supremacy.

China has fostered closer ties with Pakistan in recent years, while India is revamping its military and bolstering its partnership with the United States.

Both nations say they are committed to solving longstanding border disagreements through dialogue, but progress has been glacial.

India and China went to war in 1962 over Arunachal Pradesh, with Chinese troops temporarily capturing part of the Himalayan territory.

The dispute remains unresolved, with India considering Arunachal Pradesh one of its northeastern states while China stakes claim to about 90,000 square kilometres of the state.

In February Beijing lodged an angry protest with New Delhi over a trip by Modi to the state.

But Modi called Xi in March to congratulate the Chinese leader on his re-appointment as president, with New Delhi saying both agreed that "as two major powers growing rapidly, bilateral relations between India and China are vital".

© 2018 AFP