Friday February 21, 2020


September 4, 2012


On September 4, Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie paid a visit to his Indian counterpart in New Delhi. General Liang’s meeting with Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony was the first trip by a Chinese defense minister to India in eight years. In a statement on Tuesday, the two defense ministers agreed to resume joint military exercises between India and China that have been suspended since 2008. They also pledged to conduct high-level military exchanges, joint maritime search-and-rescue exercises, and to strengthen anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia to protect shipping lanes. Some analysts consider the visit of the Chinese military delegation to India to signal a thaw in relations between the two regional powers, or at the very least an attempt to foster goodwill in a historically tense bilateral relationship.

Ongoing territorial disputes are one factor that has contributed to an uneasy relationship between India and China. The two countries have several unresolved border disputes in the Himalayan region between India and Tibet, and fought a brief border war in 1962. Since then, the two countries have conducted 15 rounds of talks to settle the dispute, with little progress. Although in a statement after his meeting with A.K. Antony on Tuesday General Liang stated that China and India were willing to work together to “jointly maintain peace and tranquility in the China-India border areas”, most analysts admit that the lack of progress in settlement of the border disputes is unlikely to change as neither side is willing to make concessions. Minor incidents involving troops from both sides crossing the border are common, although military exchanges and senior military delegations like the one by General Liang to India this week are credited with helping to avoid escalation or major outbreaks of conflict over the border.

In addition to unresolved territorial disputes, competition over regional leadership and resources put a strain on the relationship between Asia’s two largest countries. India is especially worried by China’s heavy investment and diplomatic engagement with its neighbors, including Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, fearing that China is attempting to create a “string of pearls” of strong allies encircling India. China in turn is wary of India’s close ties with the United States, and may be concerned about possible Indian involvement in the U.S.’s “pivot” to Asia, which China sees as containment. China has also expressed displeasure with India’s joint exploration with Vietnam of oil blocks in a disputed region of the South China Sea. China’s military buildup and increasing assertiveness over its claims in the South China Sea is a source of concern for India as well. One aim of General Liang’s trip may have been to reassure India about China’s intentions in the region and assuage fears about China’s increasing influence with its neighbors. At a speech in Sri Lanka before his visit to New Delhi, General Liang stated that the PLA’s efforts to increase military exchanges and cooperation with South Asian states was for the purpose of regional stability and “not targeted at any third party”.

The outcomes of the meeting between General Liang Guanglie and A. K. Antony on Tuesday demonstrate a genuine interest on both sides in strengthening military cooperation between the two countries. India and China have a number of mutual interests in the security realm, including an interest in regional stability and a common concern over the future of Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw in 2014, a topic the two defense ministers discussed during their meeting. Trade between China and India has also grown dramatically in the last decade, and acts as a stabilizing force in bilateral relations by raising the economic cost of conflict. China is now India’s largest trading partner, and bilateral trade totaled $75.5 billion last year. Despite several issues that continue to contribute to mistrust and tension in Sino-Indian relations, relations seem to be moving in a positive direction. China and India’s effort to reset their defense relationship indicates that both countries value the bilateral relationship and are making efforts to overcome the obstacles between them.


For more information on the Chinese defense minister’s trip to India, please see the following news sources:

Reuters – “Asian giants seek better ties; China’s defense minister in India

Voice of America – “India, China to Resume Military Exercises

Washington Post – “Chinese, Indian defense ministers agree to resume joint military exercises in sign of thaw

Wall Street Journal – “India, China Push for Closer Defense Ties


For Chinese language commentary on the meeting between the Chinese and Indian defense ministers, please see the following news sources:

CCTV [Video] – “印度:时隔八年 中国防长再访印度

People’s Daily (人民网) –”中国防长八年来首访印度 印媒称重燃防务合作希望

Xinhua (新华网) – “梁光烈与印度国防部长举行会谈


Compiled and edited by Amanda Watson.