Chinese President Xi Jinping has welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his family's ancestral hometown for a visit expected to further boost diplomatic and economic ties.
The meeting Thursday in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, is seen as a gesture of goodwill between the two Asian giants who have been dealing with a long standing border dispute. It is the first time President Xi has hosted a foreign leader in his family's hometown and it is rare for Chinese leaders to welcome visitors outside Beijing.
The visit comes months after Modi hosted Xi at his hometown of Ahmedabad for a state visit during which both leaders exuded a notable degree of personal warmth, which both sides hope translates into further economic cooperation.
The two leaders are expected during the visit to sign $10 billion in economic deals, according to the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper.
India is pushing for greater access to Chinese markets for its information technology, pharmaceutical and financial services, as part of efforts to reduce its $48 billion trade deficit with China. India also wants expanded Chinese investment in its manufacturing and infrastructure.
Ahead of the visit, Modi told Chinese broadcaster CCTV that he looks forward to "working out a roadmap for qualitatively upgrading our economic relations and seeking greater Chinese participation in India's economic growth."
The two leaders will also try to make progress on a long-running border dispute that sparked a brief war in 1962 and that has flared up in recent years.
China claims more than 90,000 square kilometers in India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. India said China occupies more than 38,000 square kilometers on the Aksai China plateau.
Following an official welcome in Xi'an, Modi will travel Friday to Beijing to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other top Chinese officials. On Saturday, the Indian prime minister will attend a China-India business summit in Shanghai.
Modi will then conclude his tour of East Asia with stops Sunday in Mongolia and Monday in South Korea.