September 3, 2012 (TSR) – Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie has arrived in the Mumbai for a five-day visit, after stopping in Sri Lanka with the 23-member delegation which includes chief military leaders of Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, and Tibet Military Area Command to improve military cooperations with India.
The Defence ministers of India and China will hold talks in India tomorrow to finalise the schedule for bilateral defence exercises to be held between the two countries next year.
Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie commenced his official goodwill visits, from August 29 to September 9, to Sri Lanka, India and Laos on the invitations of their military leaders.
During his talks with Indian Defense Minister A K Antony, Gen Liang Guanglie is expected to hold wide-ranging discussions such as the American plans to rebalance Asia pacific region, New Delhi’s concerns over Chinese military infrastructure build-up relating to border relations with neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the security challenges they face when NATO forces start leaving the region in 2014.
Bolstering military-to-miltary cooperation with more Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) is also on the agenda, as a continuation from last year’s meeting.
Gen Liang’s visit takes place at a time when the two Asian giants are competing vigourously to gain a foothold across the continent for resources.
“We are planning to resume the army-to-army exercise ‘Hand-in-Hand’ from next year and a final decision in this regard is expected to be taken at the meeting between Gen Liang and his Indian counterpart,” a senior Indian Defence Ministry official said.
On December 9, 2011, India and China held their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) in “an atmosphere of cordiality” and decided to give a push to a mechanism for resolving issues and incidents along their 3,500-km-long borders.
The fourth round of ADD, held after nearly two years, was led by India’s Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Deputy Chief of General Staff General Ma Xiaotian. The two sides also discussed then defence exchanges for 2012 and agreed to “gradually enhance” the range and scope of their interaction, according to Indian defence ministry officials.
This agreement has led to the two sides planning bilateral visits by mid-level military officers to either country, which was described by officials as “the net outcome” of the 2011 round of ADD.
Under this plan, a delegation of a Chinese military team was in India all month of December, while an Indian team visited China in January 2012.
Though the two sides discussed the scope of resuming their joint army exercise in 2012, no concrete plans could be arrived until now.
Military exercises between the two countries had started in 2007 but were put on hold in 2010 after a series of hiccups in the defence ties between the two sides.
The ‘Hand-in-Hand’ exercise series began in December 2007. The first exercise was held in Kunming when China hosted an Indian Army team and this was reciprocated by India at Belgaum a year later. But since then, the exercise could not be held due to China’s engagement with major events such as 2008 Olympics and 60 years of People’s Republic in 2009.
The third edition was to have been held in China in 2010 but has since remained stalled.
After the denial of visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B.S.Jaswal by the Chinese in 2010, New Delhi froze all bilateral defence exchanges with Beijing.
Though the defence exchanges have re-started, however, there are still some problems like China declining to issue visa to an IAF officer belonging to Arunachal Pradesh.
At the three-hour meeting last year, India also put forward a few suggestions for the confidence building measures (CBM) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) based on their 2005 protocol for maintaining peace and tranquility, which the Chinese side agreed to consider, officials said.The fourth defence dialogue comes after nearly two years — the third round was held in Beijing in January 2010 — following a thaw in their bilateral relations after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Sanya, China, to attend the first BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group meet in April 2011.
A Defence Minister-level visit to China from India had last taken place in May, 2006 which established the ADD under the provisions of a memorandum of understanding for ‘Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of Defence’. The first ADD was held in November 2007.
It was also noted at the meeting last year that the strengthening of the institutional mechanism for border discussions, which is expected to be operationalised through the establishment of a working-level mechanism, would improve communications on important border-related issues.
The Special Representatives level talks on border dispute between India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Chinese Special Representative Dai Bingguo which was scheduled in November 2011 were cancelled at the last minute as Beijing was miffed over a Buddhist conference in India being addressed by the Dalai Lama.
Apart from sharing their perspectives on the regional and global security issues, it was noted that the existing CBMs on the LAC were successful in maintaining peace and tranquillity on the borders and it was decided that such measures would continue.
India has been mulling over of having a protocol with other nations to prevent skirmishes between their naval warships on the high seas.
Indian and Chinese warships have had unpleasant incidents in the past, including one three years ago when China accused an Indian submarine of having tracked their warships, heading into anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and forced it to surface.
According to Reuters, Liang sought to dismiss fears about the “China-threat theory” while addressing the Sri Lankan military. “China attaches great importance to its relations with the South Asian nations, and commits itself to forging harmonious co-existence and mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation with them,” he said.
After his meeting with Antony, the Chinese defence minister will hold a meeting with the chairman, chiefs of Staffs Committee Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne at the South Block before calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
While in India, Gen Liang will also visit the Gandhi Museum, Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar there.
General Liang’s visit will be the first by a Chinese Defence Minister to India since General Cao Gangchuan’s visited here in March, 2004. The meeting signals normalisation of bilaterals ties between the two emerging economic Asian giants.