August 29, 2012
Credit: Photo: Christina Mackenzie
China’s defense minister is due to visit India next week to seek deeper military ties, in a rare trip seen as a sign Beijing wants to stabilize its heavily fortified Himalayan border as it deals with growing friction in the South China Sea.
General Liang Guanglie will be the first Chinese defense minister to visit neighboring India in six years, a period that has seen a buildup of infrastructure and weapons in disputed regions on both sides of the border.
Guanglie will arrive in New Delhi on September 2 and leave on September 6, the Indian government said in a statement. Measures to increase “peace and tranquility” along the border are on the agenda.
“The two sides will also discuss measures to promote defense cooperation between their armed forces,” the Indian government said.
India and China fought a brief war in 1962 over the Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh regions, parts of which both countries claim. Trade between them is soaring but they compete for resources and influence in Asia.
China is also suspicious that India’s blossoming ties with the United States are part of a strategy to contain China’s rise on the world stage.
Despite numerous rounds of talks in recent years, the nuclear-armed giants still disagree about large stretches of the border and are spending billions of dollars on beefing up defenses in disputed areas, as well as extending road and rail links.
Zhang Li, a professor of South Asian studies at China’s Sichuan University, said the visit signaled a desire for stability on the Indian border at a time when China is facing rising tension off its coasts.
“China and India have not made any progress at all in talks about their territorial dispute. China hopes to have a stable relationship with India, including having military exchanges.