China's foreign minister to meet new Indian government

BEIJING Tue Jun 3, 2014 6:07am EDT

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a meeting with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at Miraflores Palace in Caracas April 21, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a meeting with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at Miraflores Palace in Caracas April 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's foreign minister will visit India next week for the first high-level meeting between the two countries after new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Foreign Minister Wang Yi would arrive in New Delhi on Sunday for a two-day trip as a special envoy of China's President Xi Jinping.

Hong said that Wang would meet Indian officials, including the country's new foreign minister, though he added that the agenda was still being worked out and could not say if Wang would also meet Modi.

Modi last month invited Xi to visit, seeking greater engagement between the world's two most populous nations on issues of trade and regional security.

Beijing has yet to formally respond to that invitation. The last Chinese head of state to visit India was Hu Jintao in 2012.

The Hindu nationalist Modi won election by a landslide, ending a decade of rule by the Congress party that for most of the time since Indian independence in 1947 has been associated with a policy of non-alignment.

Modi is keen to rebalance relations between New Delhi and Beijing that have long been marked by suspicion.

China's closest ally in the region is India's traditional foe, Pakistan, whose prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, attended Modi's inauguration.

China and India fought a brief Himalayan war in 1962 that India lost. Tension has occasionally flared on their common border, which runs for a total of nearly 3,400 km (2,100 miles) and is still partly in dispute.

India runs a $40-billion trade deficit with China, and Modi is expected to seek greater market access to reduce that gap. China's own embrace of an export-led model has helped its economy outgrow India's fourfold since 1980.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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