China today said the border dispute with India has been "contained", likening negotiations over the vexed issue to "climbing a mountain".
Addressing his annual press conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said a warm welcome awaited Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he makes his first visit to the country later this year.
"Last September, President Xi Jinping made a historic visit to India. Picture of the two leaders working at a spinning wheel in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister, has spread far and wide in China," Mr Wang said in response to a question from PTI about Sino-Indian relations at a nationally-televised crowded press conference.
"Chinese people believe in reciprocating the courtesy of others. I am sure when Prime Minister Modi visits China later this year, he will be warmly welcomed by the Chinese government and people," he said.
Terming the China-India boundary problem as a "legacy of history," Mr Wang said, "We have worked on it for many years and made some progress in the boundary negotiations.
"The dispute has been contained. At the moment, the boundary negotiation is in the process of building up small positive developments. It is like climbing a mountain and the going is tough because we are on the way up."
"This is all the more reason that we do more to strengthen China-India cooperation so that we can enable and facilitate the settlement of the boundary question," he said.
Invoking one of China's erstwhile top leaders, Deng Xiaoping who said that unless India and China were developed, there would be no Asian century, Mr Wang said, "China is prepared to work with India to implement important agreements reached by our leaders."
"Chinese dragon and Indian elephant should join in a duet to work for the early revitalisation of two ancient civilisations, common prosperity of the two emerging markets and amicable co-existence of two large neighbours," he said.
PM Modi is expected to visit China before May 6, around the time when his government completes one year in office.
In a reciprocal gesture of the warm welcome accorded to him during his visit to India last year, President Xi is expected to take PM Modi to his native province Shaanxi and its capital Xian to showcase its development.
Officials say efforts are on to hold the 18th round of boundary talks between India and China later this month to resolve the dispute.
The talks will be held between Special Representatives, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
China, which claims Arunachal Pradesh as a part of Southern Tibet, says the border dispute is confined to 2,000 kilometres mostly in the north-eastern state.
However, India asserts that the dispute covers the western side of the border spanning to about 4,000 kms including Aksai Chin area in Ladakh occupied by China in the 1962 border war.