India attaches highest priority to its relations with China, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday as he kicked-off his visit to Beijing with a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, General Chang Wanquan, at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) headquarters in Beijing.
Parrikar, who is on his maiden visit to China after assuming office, made brief opening remarks before beginning a two-hour meeting with Chang.
“India attaches highest priority to relations with China and committed to further developing friendly and cooperative relations with China,” Parrikar said.
Parrikar is the first defence minister to visit China in three years with AK Antony being the last to visit in June, 2013.
On his part, Wang said the Indian defence minister’s visit was expected to improve “strategic mutual trust between the two armed forces”.
After his meeting with Wang, Parrikar will hold talks with Gen Fan Changlong, vice-chairperson of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), headed by President Xi Jinping.
Later on Monday, he is expected to call on Premier Li Keqiang.
On Tuesday, Parrikar will visit China’s recently integrated western command military headquarters in Chengdu, which looks after China’s borders with India.
In Chengdu, he will interact with the commanding officer of the western theatre command, Zhao Zongqi, and inspect the Special Operation Forces’ brigade.
On Monday, China’s state media indicated that military officials might take up the issue of India’s increasing -– even if guarded -- close military ties with US.
“Last week, US defense secretary Ashton Carter concluded his three-day visit to India and announced that he and his Indian counterpart had agreed in principle that all the issues regarding a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) are resolved and both sides would finalize the text in the coming weeks. Despite a whole range of strategic issues being covered in the visit, the topic of the logistics agreement itself has trigged speculation among international media that both sides are boarding the same boat to contain China,” the nationalistic Global Times newspaper said in an opinion piece.
It however added that the postponement of the agreement shows that India has concerns over the deal.
“Now the postponement of its signing demonstrates that such concerns are at least partly shared by the current Indian government led by the National Democratic Alliance. Such concerns come from the deficit of strategic trust between India and the US. Regardless of differences in national policies, Indian strategic elites have a constant sense that US is not a trusted partner and this time is no exception,’’ the newspaper said.
The two sides are expected to discuss military ties and how to gradually institutionalise interactions between the two armed forces. The upgradation of the bilateral exercise “Hand-in-Hand” could also be discussed.