India, China in top-level security talks

Beijing keen on more details of Delhi's new logistics pact with US

India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan at the welcome ceremony in Beijing on Monday. Mr Parrikar is on a five-day trip to China.
India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan at the welcome ceremony in Beijing on Monday. Mr Parrikar is on a five-day trip to China.PHOTO: MANOHAR PARRIKAR FACEBOOK

India attaches the highest priority to its relations with China and is committed to developing friendly and cooperative ties with its largest neighbour, visiting Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said, amid Beijing's concerns over New Delhi's growing closeness to Washington.

Mr Parrikar made the pledge in response to remarks by his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan at their meeting yesterday that China "attaches utmost importance to the visit and we tried our best to meet your requirements".

Making his first visit to China since taking office in 2014, Mr Parrikar yesterday also met Premier Li Keqiang and General Fan Changlong, vice-chair of the Central Military Commission.

Mr Parrikar's five-day trip began in Shanghai on Sunday and will feature a visit to China's recently-set- up Western Command military headquarters in the south-western city Chengdu. It is one of several high-level interactions between the two sides this week.

India's National Security Adviser A.K. Doval and State Councillor Yang Jiechi will meet in Beijing tomorrow as special representatives tasked to find a solution to disputes on their 3,488km-long border.

And yesterday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a trilateral meeting in Moscow with their Russian counterpart.

Mr Parrikar's visit comes days after India inked an in-principle pact to sign a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) with the United States, which would involve sharing of military bases for refuelling and repairs of fighter jets and naval warships.

Given its similarity to the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement between the US and many Nato allies, India's move has sparked concerns in China that it has entered an undeclared military alliance with the US to counter Beijing's reach in the Indian Ocean.

The Hindu newspaper reported, quoting "highly placed sources", that the Chinese side was waiting to be briefed by Mr Parrikar on the in-principle agreement.

But the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, said on Sunday that India's move to sign an in-principle pact, instead of an actual deal, is proof of how India is trying to extract benefits from both China and the US.

It added: "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, the US and China."

But Sino-Indian expert Hu Zhiyong of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said the meetings this week were prepared way in advance and not in response to US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter's visit to India last week that saw progress on the LSA.

Another key issue is New Delhi's stance on the South China Sea territorial spats between Beijing and several Asean states and the likelihood of it joining US-led freedom of navigation patrols in the area.

Chinese Association for South Asian Studies president Sun Shihai said China may want to use the meetings to send a message that it is committed to solving territorial disputes with neighbours through peaceful negotiations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a routine press briefing that China and India are willing to solve their differences through friendly negotiations.

"We are ready to work with India to constantly make new progress on building the China-India Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'India, China in top-level security talks'. Subscribe