China's Xi and India's Modi to hold summit this week amid strains

New Delhi (AFP) –


India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China's President Xi Jinping will hold an informal summit in southern India on Friday, officials said, amid strains in their relationship.

The meeting follows months of niggling between the world's two most populous nations over trade, border disputes, and their respective diplomatic moves.

India's foreign ministry has not formally announced the meeting in the Tamil Nadu town of Mamallapuram, known for its historic temples and architecture.

But it has opened media registration for a "second India-China informal summit", and Chinese officials have been scouting out the seaside town for several weeks.

Indian media reports said Xi and Modi will visit Mamallapuram's attractions on the follow up to their first informal summit in Wuhan, China, in April last year.

That meeting followed an intense high-altitude stand-off at a disputed border post in the Himalayas.

Xi is expected to leave Saturday, as Nepalese media have said he will visit Kathmandu this weekend on his way back from the India talks.

The historic rivalry between India and China has been strained in recent months after Beijing criticised New Delhi's decision to revoke autonomy in Kashmir, the Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan.

Beijing singled out India's decision to create a separate administrative territory in Ladakh, a Buddhist-dominated part of Kashmir, as part of the change.

China also claims parts of the Ladakh region, perched on a steep Himalayan border with China's restive Xinjiang to its north and Tibet to the east.

"India has continued to undermine China's territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law," China's foreign ministry said in August.

India too claims part of Ladakh region under Chinese control.

India has also objected to Beijing's Belt and Road initiative, a global infrastructure programme that includes a major project through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a territory claimed by New Delhi.

The two went to war in 1962 over Arunachal Pradesh state in northeast India, where China claims about 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of the territory, next to Tibet.

Trade is another sore point in the relationship.

India recently raised the issue of its rising trade deficit of about $55 billion, according to some reports, and pressed China for better market access for Indian companies.

Xi, in turn, can be expected to press Modi to open Indian markets to Huawei's 5G telecom systems amidst global debate on security concerns.

The United States is blocking Huawei and encouraging its allies to do the same because of the company's links to the Beijing government.