India and China Agree to Resume Joint Military Exercises

Posted on September 5, 2012

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NEW DELHI (AP) — The defense ministers of India and China agreed Tuesday to resume joint military exercises, which were frozen two years ago, signaling a thaw in relations.

The two ministers, Liang Guanglie of China and A. K. Antony of India, announced the agreement after talks in New Delhi.

The two countries also decided to hold high-level official exchanges, conduct joint maritime search-and-rescue exercises and strengthen antipiracy operations off the coast of Somalia, where pirate attacks pose a threat to shipping.

No dates were set for the exercises. The ministers said in a statement that closer military ties would help deepen trust and friendship between the two countries. The exercises were frozen after Beijing denied a visa to an Indian general who worked in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan.

India and China’s tangled relationship dates to a 1962 border war. They also have unresolved territorial disputes, are competing for leadership across the continent and are vying for energy sources to supply their growing economies and huge populations.

Analysts said that Beijing was likely to have used the brief talks to ask India to stay out of a dispute in the South China Sea. Beijing is coming under increasing American pressure to agree to a regional code of conduct to reduce the risks of a conflict there. China’s claims in the area have created tensions with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

China has also cautioned India to stop what it says is an illegal joint project between Vietnam and India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation that is searching for hydrocarbons in the disputed waters. Vietnam says the exploration is within its territorial waters.

India could play a role in persuading Beijing to ease its aggressive posture in the territorial disputes, said Sujit Dutta, an international affairs professor at Jamia Millia University.

“At a time when Beijing is in a confrontationist mode with several countries over territorial disputes, China must be persuaded that its unilateralism in the South China Sea is affecting security in the region,” he said.

Mr. Liang and Mr. Antony also reviewed progress in talks to resolve a long-running border dispute in the Himalayas that led to the brief war in 1962. Fifteen rounds of talks on the dispute have made little headway.

“The Chinese side is willing to work together with the Indian side to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the China-India border areas,” Mr. Liang said in an interview with The Hindu newspaper.

The defense ministers also discussed security in Afghanistan after the drawdown of American-led NATO troops in 2014, a government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

India and China — a strong ally of India’s main rival, Pakistan — share concerns about Pakistan’s role in arming and supporting the Taliban forces that are threatening to make a comeback in Afghanistan once NATO leaves.

Mr. Liang was also expected to reassure India over China’s rapid military buildup and its growing investment in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives. China’s deepening involvement in the four countries has fanned concerns that China is encircling India.

Despite tensions, trade between India and China has soared from $5 billion in 2002 to nearly $75 billion last year. However, the trade remains heavily skewed in favor of China, which is now India’s biggest trading partner.

A.P.

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