President Xi Jinping was among the first world leaders to congratulate Narendra Modi for winning a second five-year term as Indian prime minister. He had good reason to do so – China and India are neighbours and the world’s two most populous nations. But their relations are not as strong as should be and the uncertainty and pressures of the trade and technology war being waged by the United States call for alliances and coordinated strategies. Forging better ties is in the interests of both countries. There are challenges aplenty. US President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to isolate China and is targeting its tech sector, with the firm Huawei Technologies the focus. The Indian economy is in poor shape and a slowdown seems inevitable, while large parts of the country face a severe drought. Xi’s message, without mention of the US although alluding to Trump’s policies, spoke of the need to “maintain coordination and cooperation on major issues such as promoting multipolarisation and economic globalisation as well as upholding multilateralism”. India election: Modi claims election victory for Hindu nationalist BJP China’s close ties to India’s arch-enemy, Pakistan, and a decades-old border dispute are long-standing impediments to smooth relations. Modi has steadfastly refused to sign on to Xi’s signature regional infrastructure project, the “Belt and Road Initiative”, although his failure to attend last month’s summit of participating nations even as an observer was perhaps admissible given it was held during the month-long election. China did not feature prominently as a campaign issue, but Beijing may have given Modi a boost with its decision at the United Nations Security Council to allow the naming of Pakistan-based militant Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. The two leaders have built a measure of personal rapport that in part led to an informal meeting in Wuhan last year and Xi is expected to visit New Delhi in the coming months. Voters paid little attention to the state of India’s economy, the worst unemployment in 45 years and an ever-widening trade gap. Modi focused on his image as a strong leader, national security and grass-roots issues at the local level to improve the lives of the poor. His Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won 303 of the 545 seats in the lower house of parliament, 21 more than in 2014 and the first time an incumbent prime minister has won a majority since 1971. The opposition Indian National Congress and its allies failed to make meaningful gains. With the election behind, the economy is bound to become a pressing issue for Modi and China has an important role to play. There is much scope for boosting trade and investment and joining the belt and road will provide much-needed infrastructure and jobs. There is every reason for China and India to move closer.