The defense ministers of China and India on Tuesday agreed to restart joint military exercises after a four-year hiatus, a sign of warming relations between the two countries , analysts said.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony told reporters about the decision to restart military exercises after holding talks with his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, in New Delhi.
Chinese and Indian troops took part in their first joint drills, which had a counterterrorism theme, in China in 2007 and in India a year after that. But no exercises have taken place since.
"We covered a lot about the situation in the South Asia, Asia-Pacific region. We had a very frank and open discussion on all issues," Anthony said.
Along with the situation in the South Asia and Asia-Pacific region, the two ministers also "had a very frank and heart-to-heart discussion on all the issues ... including in the border areas", Antony said.
Liang said he had a "candid and practical discussion with the defense minister", and "there was now a mutual desire to move forward".
"We have reached a consensus on high-level visits and exchange of personnel, maritime security ... and cooperation between the two navies," he said.
Liang said that the military ties between China and India, an important part of the nations’ relationship, have been promoted further as the countries have maintained high-level exchanges, visits and contacts.
Liang said China always has a positive attitude toward promoting exchanges and cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces and is willing to work with India to increase mutual trust. China, he said, wants to nurture the healthy and steady development of relations between the two countries and their armed forces, with a long-term perspective and mutually tolerant attitude.
Antony said he had accepted Liang's invitation to visit China.
While the plan to resume the joint exercises marks a warming of military ties, there had been signs in the past several months that indicated the willingness of the two countries to heal their military relations, according to Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.
Four Indian navy ships, on the country’s first goodwill tour to China in six years, visited Shanghai in June. One of China's training vessels, the Zhenghe, paid a goodwill visit to India in May during its global voyage.
China has always been active in building trust with the Indian army, Zhai said.
"There is the ‘China Threat’ theory that exists in India, and there are those who play up the threat, either to please the West or pressure neighboring countries. However, China never treats India as a threat," he said.
Liang’s visit shows an important effort that China made to increase mutual trust and reduce strategic errors, said Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.
But there is still a lot of room to improve the level of exchanges between the two militaries, as the joint exercise themed on anti-terrorism to be resumed next year represents a low level of cooperation, he said.
In addition to rebuilding military ties, border issues between the two countries are widely believed to be another important subject on the top of Liang’s agenda during his visit.
"The Chinese side is willing to push forward bilateral negotiations on the border issue and seek fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solutions in the spirit of peace and friendliness, equal consultation, mutual respect and mutual accommodation," Liang said on Tuesday.
Although the border issue remains unresolved, the countries have had 15 rounds of high-level talks and established a number of mechanisms in the border area to keep its peace and stability, Ruan said.
"These measures show the efforts being put into building trust between China and India," he said.
Liang arrived in India on Sunday for a friendly visit after his visit to Sri Lanka. The last stop of his three-nation tour will be Laos.
Yin Zhuo, a Beijing-based military expert, told China Central Television that China and India, both emerging powers, will contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region if they work closer together.
"The two countries bear the same task of developing their economies, and also face the same threats, such as terrorism and transnational crime. Why can they not work together to solve the problems hindering their ties?" Yin said.