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Publication Date : 03-09-2012
Liang's trip shows military exchanges are 'back on track'
Liang Guanglie arrived in Mumbai, India, yesterday afternoon, marking the first visit by a Chinese defence minister to the South Asian country in eight years.
The visit is also Liang's first trip to India since he became defence minister. Experts said the visit is a sign that military exchanges between China and India are back on track.
According to the Ministry of National Defence, Liang and his delegation, which includes high-ranking members of the Chinese defence and military establishment, will meet his Indian counterpart Shri AK Antony.
The defence ministers are expected to discuss issues such as joint military exercises and border security, and Antony said they may announce a new round of joint military exercises, building on a recent joint naval drill in Shanghai, according to Reuters.
The two countries are also expected to discuss their mutual neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the security challenges they face when NATO forces start leaving the region in 2014.
Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Liang's visit showed that military exchanges between Asia's two largest powers have "returned to normal".
The rapid and almost simultaneous rise of China and India has raised concerns about an inevitable confrontation between the two emerging economies.
Before the visit to India, Liang said in Sri Lanka that Beijing's increasingly close ties with South Asia are aimed at ensuring regional "security and stability" and are not intended to harm any "third party".
He also dismissed the "China threat theory".
"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 said.
Committed to attaining prosperity through peaceful means, China's business relations with India are booming and yearly trade has increased from US$3 billion a decade ago to $75.5 billion.
"China and India, as the two biggest developing countries in the world, are not rivals in any competition at present. Military talks between them do not match the explosive increase in Sino-Indian trade and the regular political exchanges."
Despite defence exchange had been on hold since 2004, Fu said there have been political engagements between the two nations.
"I think visit of General Liang will also enrich the two countries' cooperation in military and security," Fu said.
The delegation also includes senior officers from the South Sea Fleet of Chinese navy.
The US' recent strategy to pivot to the Asia-Pacific has also aroused suspicion from the international community that India will stand up as a major force to counter-balance China.
"I would rather see the current political climate as an opportunity for China and India. If the two handle it properly, dialogues on various issues will help us avoid doubts and embrace more opportunities for the comprehensive development of Sino-Indian relations," he said.
Liang kicked off his visit to three Asian neighbours on Wednesday, stopping in Sri Lanka. After the five-day trip to India, he will head to Laos.