NEW DEHLI —
India and China will resume military exercises after a gap of four years. The announcement was made during a visit to New Delhi by the Chinese defense minister - the first such visit to India in eight years.
The decision to hold bilateral military exercises next year came during a meeting on Tuesday in the Indian capital.
The two countries held military exercises in 2007 and 2008, but they were suspended when India froze defense exchanges with China following Beijing’s denial of a visa to an Indian general.
But there has been a thaw recently. And the visit by Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie is being seen as a bid to put defense ties back on track, as Beijing prepares for a change of leadership.
The two countries decided to hold high-level official exchanges and boost security cooperation between their navies.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony says they had “heart-to-heart” discussions. "We have discussed how to improve our relations in all spheres including the border areas,” he said.
The Indian minister says he will visit China next year.
Chinese minister Liang said in an interview to an Indian newspaper that Beijing is willing to work with New Delhi to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas.
Although the relationship between the Asian giants has improved in recent years and trade is booming, mistrust continues to dog their ties.
Talks spanning nearly two decades have failed to resolve a long-running border dispute which led to a brief war in 1962.
India’s recent moves to explore oil in the South China Sea have not gone down well with Beijing. And India is concerned about China building military infrastructure along their common frontier.
New Delhi is also deeply suspicious about what it views as efforts by China to “encircle India” by gaining influence and building infrastructure in neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.
“China has a major interest in the Indian Ocean region and therefore, as a consequence of securing its own interest, its own commercial interest, trade etcetera,. it will have a presence in this region. Of course, this will concern India, concern others,” stated Dipankar Banerjee, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi.
The Chinese defense minister sought to downplay Indian fears regarding its expanding influence in the Indian Ocean. Speaking in Sri Lanka before reaching India, he said that Beijing’s increasingly close ties with South Asia aim at ensuring “regional stability” and are not aimed at any third party.