NEW DELHI: Joint military exercises between India and China will be resumed after a four-year gap, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony announced Tuesday after talks in New Delhi with his Beijing counterpart.
The two emerging Asian nations have had an often fractious relationship over their shared border, and they halted joint military exercises after 2008 due to a series of diplomatic spats including over visa issues.
“We have decided that (to restart military exercises),” Antony told reporters following talks with General Liang Guanglie, the first Chinese defence minister to visit Delhi in eight years.
“We covered a lot about the situation in the South Asia, Asia-Pacific region,” Antony said. “We had a very frank and heart-to-heart discussion on all the issues… including in the border areas.”
The disputed border between India and China has been the subject of 14 rounds of fruitless talks since 1962, when the two nations fought a brief, bloody war over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
China’s buildup of military infrastructure along the frontier has become a major source of concern for India, which increasingly sees Beijing as a longer-term threat to its security than Pakistan.
“We have reached a consensus on high-level visits and exchange of personnel, maritime security… and cooperation between the two navies,” Liang said after Tuesday’s talks.
“I had candid and practical discussion with the defence minister,” he added.
Liang’s four-day visit also comes amid Indian fears about increased Chinese activity in countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which New Delhi sees as within its sphere of influence.
The presence of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala is another cause of prickly relations between the two nations.
Heavy security on Tuesday prevented demonstrations by Tibetan exiles living in Delhi.
On Sunday, Tibetan exiles held a small demonstration close to the Chinese embassy in New Delhi to protest against Liang’s visit, burning a Chinese flag and shouting slogans demanding freedom for Tibetans living in China.
While in Sri Lanka before arriving in India, Liang stressed China sought only “harmonious co-existence” with other countries.
“The Chinese army’s efforts in conducting friendly exchanges and cooperation… in South Asian nations are intended for maintaining regional security and stability and not targeted at any third party,” Liang said.
The first Indian and Chinese joint military exercise was held in Kunming, China in 2007, and the second in Belgaum in India in 2008.
A third session in China was postponed following a deterioration in relations, including over China’s refusal to offer a visa to a senior army officer stationed in Kashmir, the scene of one of the border disputes.
An Indian spokesman said that the ministers had also agreed on improving coordination in tackling rampant piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.