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China visit to expand areas of unity: Pranab

During the trip, the once bitter enemies are expected to institutionalise a framework for regular exchanges.

india Updated: May 24, 2006 16:43 IST

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday that his May 28-June 1 visit to China would lead to expanded cooperation between the two countries.

"The visit is with the object of keeping our relationship warm and also to expand our areas of cooperation," Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi on the sidelines of a defence seminar.

During the trip, the once bitter enemies are expected to institutionalise a framework for regular military-to-military exchanges.

Mukherjee, who leaves New Delhi on May 25, will first visit Japan before heading for Beijing.

"We are going to improve our relations with China," Mukherjee said.

"Since the visit of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, there has been substantial improvement in our bilateral relations with China in the area of trade, in the area of economic cooperation, in the area of confidence building measures along the Line of Actual Control and also in certain important area like resolving the issue of recognising Sikkim as an integral part of India," the minister maintained.

According to a defence ministry spokesman, the visit "will be an important milestone and a major confidence building measure (CBM) in the progressive relations between India and China".

Senior officials of the ministries of defence and external affairs, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the three services will accompany Mukherjee.

"India and China are expected to conclude a memorandum of understanding to institutionalise training and exercise exchanges and other contacts between the armed forces, defence officials and experts of the two countries," the spokesman said.

"This is expected to serve as an instrument for a regular and sustained dialogue on defence and national defence issues between the two countries."

India and China had fought a bruising border war in 1962. However, ties have been steadily improving since the mid-1980s and the two countries are vigorously pursuing economic and other exchanges, even as experts work on resolving the boundary dispute.

"Mukherjee will be laying emphasis on India's commitment to the development of a strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity between India and China on the basis of Panchsheel (the five principles for good neighbourly relations formulated in the 1950s)," the spokesman said.

"The discussions are expected to cover India's desire to broaden and deepen defence and military exchanges with China to enhance mutual trust and understanding between the two armed forces, ensuring a peaceful environment in which they can pursue their national development objectives and maintaining peace and tranquillity in the region and the world at large."

Mukherjee is expected to call on the highest level of the Chinese government and military leadership, besides meeting Chinese Minister of National Defence General Cao Gangchuan, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other high-ranking provincial officials.

The Indian defence minister will also visit some of the military institutions and installations in Beijing, Lanzhou and Shanghai.

In Japan, Mukherjee will hold discussions with his counterpart, the director general of the Japanese Defence Agency.

He is also expected to meet Japanese ministers for land, infrastructure and transport, and foreign affairs, as also the chief cabinet secretary.