Chinese defense minister visits India

Sept. 3, 2012 at 2:07 AM
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NEW DELHI, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie's India trip is a sign military exchanges between the two Asian giants are back on track, experts told China Daily.

General Liang, leading a 23-member delegation of high-ranking defense and military officials, arrived in Mumbai Sunday to begin his four-day visit when he is also to meet with his Indian counterpart, A.K. Anthony.

The two nuclear Asian giants fought a brief border war in 1962 but since then relations have steadily improved, although their Himalayan border issues remain unresolved and new tensions have risen, especially those relating to China's close relations with Pakistan, India's traditional adversary. But India-China trade also has boomed in recent years.

The Times of India reported the two sides aim to step up military exchanges, confidence-building measures and another "hand-in-hand" bilateral army exercise next year.

"With China itself requesting the visit, it's a significant step towards repairing the cracks in bilateral defense ties," one official told the Times of India. New Delhi is turn is rolling out the red carpet for General Liang and his delegation, the report said.

The two sides are also expected to discuss their mutual neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan, and security challenges they would face when NATO forces leave the region in 2014, China Daily reported.

Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Chinese newspaper Liang's visit showed that military exchanges between Asia's two largest powers have "returned to normal."

In Sri Lanka, which Liang visited before reaching India, the general said China's increasingly closer ties with South Asia are aimed at ensuring regional "security and stability" and are not intended to harm any "third party."

"Some people in the international community suspect that China would take the road of expansion with force and have been actively spreading the 'China threat theory,'" Liang was quoted as saying.

Besides the border issues, other irritants in India-China relations include the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has been living in India since the failed Tibetan rebellion in 1959 and whom China has accused of encouraging Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama has denied the accusations.

China's aggressive claims in the South China Sea and other islands also have raised concerns in the region.

"I think the visit of General Liang will also enrich the two countries' cooperation in military and security," Fu told China Daily.

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