External Affairs

India Attaches Highest Priority to Ties with China, Says Parrikar

Beijing: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar kicked off his first visit to China by holding talks with Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan on Monday. He stated that India attaches highest priority to its relationship with China and is committed to further develop ties.

“India attaches (the) highest priority to relations with China and (is) committed to further developing friendly and cooperative relations with China,” Parrikar told Chang in his opening remarks before the two delegations started the talks.

Parrikar was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the headquarters of the Chinese military by a contingent of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Welcoming Parrikar, Chang said, “Hope your visit improves strategic mutual trust between the two armed forces”.

After his meeting with Chang, Parrikar will hold talks with General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). General Fan is ranked higher in the Chinese military hierarchy, as the CMC is the head of the 2.3-million-strong PLA.

He is also due to call on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and visit China’s recently integrated western command military headquarters in Chengdu, which has jurisdiction over borders with India.

During Parrikar’s talks today with top Chinese military officials, recurring incidents of incursions, and the implementation of an agreement to reduce tensions between border patrols and Sino-India strategic concerns are expected to come up.

While Indian officials have said the talks are expected to review the whole gamut of bilateral ties, India’s concerns over aggressive patrolling by Chinese troops, especially in the Ladakh sector, remains high. China denies any incursions, asserting its troops patrol areas within its territory along the 3,488-km disputed border. The two militaries also have strategic concerns over each other’s military tie-ups with other countries.

Ahead of Parrikar’s visit, China hinted that it may take up the recent decision by India to open up military bases to the US for logistics and efforts to conclude a pact to share aircraft sharing technologies. Chinese state media today said the proposed deal is stalled because of distrust between the two as India wants to be the “most beautiful woman” wooed by all, especially Washington and Beijing.

“Besides their traditional distrust, the speculation heralding a US-India alliance is also an obvious underestimation of India’s ambition for a role of swing-state between superpowers,” an article in the state-run Global Times said. “The basic idea is that India would like to continue to be the most beautiful woman wooed by all men, notably the two strongest in the house, US and China.”

“This is not an unfamiliar role to India. We can still recall how its diplomatic manoeuvring had earned itself a special role between the two competing blocs during the Cold War,” it said. India shouldn’t “agitate China” by crossing the line, the article continued, and should choose not to discuss joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea.

Last week, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter concluded his three-day visit to India and announced that he and his Indian counterpart have agreed “in principle” that all issues regarding a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) are resolved and both sides would finalise the text in the coming weeks.

Highlighting India’s decision to sign the LSA, the Global Times said: “Despite a whole range of strategic issues being covered in the visit, the topic of the logistics agreement itself has triggered speculation among international media that both sides are boarding the same boat to contain China.”

In essence, the LSA’s purpose is to share military bases for logistical purposes, including refuelling and repair. “Therefore it is very similar to the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), a traditional agreement the US has with many of its NATO allies,” the Global Times said. “That’s why it has triggered speculation that both sides are moving toward a military alliance arrangement.”

In 2007, the US and Sri Lanka signed an ACSA to allow exchange of logistics supplies during peacekeeping missions, humanitarian operations, and joint exercises.