Chinese Defence Minister arrives on a five-day visit
Mumbai/New Delhi: China's Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie on Sunday commenced a five-day visit to India during which he is expected to allay New Delhi's concerns over Chinese military infrastructure build-up along the border and discuss the revival of joint exercises halted four years back.
Gen Liang's visit, the first by a Chinese Defence Minister in eight years, takes place at a time when the two Asian giants are competing vigourously to get a firm grip across the continent for resources.
The minister arrived in Mumbai, his first halt, where he visited Mahatma Gandhi's memorial 'Mani Bhawan'.
"The minister was keen to know about Gandhiji and his roots. He seemed to very interested in Gandhi's early life and asked questions with the help of an interpreter," Mani Bhawan executive secretary Ghanshyam Ajgaonkar told a news agency.
Gen Liang will arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday for wide-ranging discussions with Defence Minister AK Antony on issues relating to border and bolstering military-to-miltary cooperation.
The two sides are expected to exchange views on putting in place more Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), a senior official of the Defence Ministry said here.
"We are planning to resume the army-to-army exercise 'Hand-in-Hand' from next year and a final decision in this regard is expected to be taken at the meeting between Gen Liang and his Indian counterpart," the official said.
Military exercises between the two countries had started in 2007 but were put on hold after a series of hiccups in the defence ties between the two sides.
The first exercise was held in Kunming, China in 2007 whereas the second was held in India at Belgaum in 2008.
After the denial of visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal by the Chinese in 2010, New Delhi froze all bilateral defence exchanges with Beijing.
Though the defence exchanges have re-started, there are still some issues like China declining to give visa to an IAF officer belonging to Arunachal Pradesh. China considers Arunachal Pradesh as part of his territory and calls it as 'South Tibet', a claim rejected by India, which says the state is its integral part.
The two sides also have a long-pending boundary problem along the over 4,000 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Special Representatives of the two countries have held 15 rounds of talks on the issue but not much progress has been made in this regard.
Gen Liang's visit will be the first by a Chinese Defence Minister to India since Gen Cao Gangchuan's trip here in March, 2004. A Defence Minister-level visit to China from India had last taken place in May, 2006.
He will also visit Taj Mahal in Agra and Qutub Minar here.