Narendra Modi is en route to China, marking his first visit there since becoming India’s prime minister last May. Modi will begin his visit in Xi’an, where he will be greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping in an unusual break of protocol (Xi normally receives foreign leaders in Beijing, the country’s capital). After a day in Xi’an, Modi will spend Friday in Beijing before heading to Shanghai. The visit will run the gamut of issues at the top of the India-China bilateral agenda, including economic ties, strategic issues, and the contentious topic of the border disputes between the two countries.
As a matter of diplomatic protocol, China generally equates Indian prime ministers with Chinese premiers. As Ananth Krishnan notes in India Today, Modi’s reception in Xi’an by Xi is unique not only for the sake of the venue, but also because of this presumed change in protocol. Xi greeting Modi outside of Beijing, interestingly, draws a parallel to Modi’s unconventional decision to greet Xi in Gujarat instead of New Delhi during his September 2014 visit to India.
Modi and Xi will hold bilateral talks in Xi’an on the afternoon of May 14. On Friday, Modi will meet with China’s premier, Li Keqiang. In Beijing, Modi and Li will oversee the signing of numerous memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on economic cooperation and investment. Trade between India and China stands at around $70 billion, but the balance is largely in China’s favor. Modi and Xi, during their meetings in India last year, expressed an interest in growing their trade partnership.