The Straits Times
Published on Sep 02, 2012

Asian giants seek better ties as China's defence minister visits India


NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - A rare visit to India by China's defence minister should help avoid flare-ups along the border between the nuclear-armed Asian giants at a time when Beijing is grappling with a change of leadership and friction in the South China Sea.

But General Liang Guanglie's trip - the first by a Chinese defence minister in eight years - also highlights growing competition between the two emerging powers as they jostle for influence and resources across Asia.

Mr Liang is due to arrive in Mumbai on Sunday afternoon after stopping in Sri Lanka, the island nation off the south coast of India that sits on vital ocean trade routes.

There he sought to play down Indian fears that China is threading a "string of pearls" - or encircling it by financing infrastructure and military strength in neighbours stretching from Pakistan to the Maldives.