Relations between India and China appear to be on the upswing as India's Foreign Minister begins a five-day visit to China. Growing trade, diplomatic, and airline links are a big change from previous fighting over borderlines.

India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh arrived Friday aboard the first direct India-to-China airline flight in decades. "It's not simply a flight connection. It represents an ... opening between India and China," Mr. Singh said.

China is also treating the new air service as an important symbol of improving relations, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue calling it "a big event." Ms. Zhang said "China hopes this airline can serve as a bond of friendship."

Relations between China and India have been plagued by border disputes that flared into war between the giant Asian neighbors in 1962. Strains also grew from China's military support for India's arch-rival, Pakistan.

But the world's two most populous nations have been working to improve ties in recent years, especially to boost trade. On a January visit to India, China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji said it may be possible to more than triple the current three billion-dollar annual trade between India and China.

Besides trade issues, the current talks are expected to cover counter-terrorism, long-standing border disputes, and lay groundwork for a visit to China by India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee later this year.