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China, India Hold Joint Naval Exercises - 2003-11-14

China and India held their first joint naval exercises Friday. The training drill is a part of China's efforts to build stronger ties with its South Asian neighbor.

The search-and-rescue operation off Shanghai came after China conducted similar naval exercises with India's nuclear rival, Pakistan, last month.

Political observers say China's decision to hold the exercises with India is part of Beijing's effort to assert a leadership role in South Asia.

In the past, China almost inevitably would anger Pakistan or India by improving relations with the other, but Chinese officials say that has changed.

This week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China seeks to develop relations with India while maintaining strong ties with Pakistan.

Mr. Liu says China has an important relationship with India and Pakistan. He said both of them are good neighbors of China and he said the development of China's relations with India will not affect the development of traditional, friendly relations with Pakistan.

Relations between India and China have historically been troubled, and the two nations waged a short border war in 1962. Ties have been improving in recent years.

Professor He Baogang at the National University of Singapore's East Asia Institute is an expert on Sino-Indian relations. He says China has both security and economic reasons to improve ties with New Delhi.

"China wants to have a peaceful environment, but they also need markets now," he said. "They have become the world center for machinery production. They need a market."

Professor He says gestures of cooperation are important as both sides gradually work to resolve longstanding political issues that divide them.