Beijing: China’s Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie’s visit to India was part of stepped up diplomacy with neighbouring countries by Chinese military to reduce suspicion, enhance mutual trust and minimise miscalculations over territorial disputes, official media here reported today.
While Gen Liang, the first Chinese Defence Minister to visit India in eight years, arrived in Mumbai on Sunday, a delegation of People’s Liberation Army led by Deputy Chief of Staff Gen Ma Xiaotian left on an official visit to Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore on a mission to improve ties.
China, which has an unresolved border dispute with India, also has territorial disputes with Vietnam and Malaysia over the South China Sea.
The flurry of diplomacy by PLA is conducive to reducing miscalculations amid recent territorial disputes and neighbours’ concerns about China’s military strength, state-run China Daily quoted officials as saying.
It said military and Foreign Ministry have conducted a number of intensive exchanges this year, with the emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. PLA senior military officials have visited about 20 countries including United States.
China is increasingly using military diplomacy to supplement other exchanges, said Meng Xiangqing, deputy director of the Strategic Research Institute at the National Defence University of the PLA.
The central feature of Beijing’s diplomacy is to create a secure region, but “it will not yield when sovereignty and territory are concerned”, he said.
Wan Wei, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the PLA, said the purpose of Liang’s visit to India is “crystal clear. It is a demonstration of goodwill since military ties between the two countries have witnessed twists and turns.”
Liang’s 23-member delegation includes Yang Jinshan, commander of the Tibet autonomous region’s military district bordering India.
Fifteen rounds of high-level talks have been held in a bid to resolve the dispute about where the Himalayan border lies.
Indian and Chinese troops took part in counter-terrorism drills in China in 2007 and in India a year later.
According to Sun Shihai, a member of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, the Sino-Indian relationship is moving forward despite difficulties in the past.
“For two giant powers with geographical proximity, problems and disputes are inevitable. But if compared with 20 years ago, you’ll find overwhelming progress made in the fields of economy and cultural exchanges, security and border issues,” he told state-run Global Times.
The Global Times report also mentioned a high altitude PLA military exercise in the Tibetan plateau in July in which a new type of air defence missile successfully hit three invading “enemy aircrafts from the southeast direction,” highlighting its military preparedness in the backdrop of India beefing up infrastructure on its side of the border.
Military exchanges, the most sensitive part of bilateral ties, will help reduce suspicion and enhance mutual trust, said Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
“We have the ability to defend our waters, and we have not used military force. If we were to do so, it would be as a last resort. We are conducting talks, using diplomatic means and some civilian, law enforcement means, to resolve the conflict. This way is the best,” Gen Ma Xiaotian told Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV earlier in Beijing.