Indian defence minister in first trip to China in seven years

Published July 4, 2013
In this handout photograph by The Indian Defence Ministry dated September 4, 2012, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony (L) looks on as China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie speaks during a meeting at The Ministry of Defence in New Delhi.
In this handout photograph by The Indian Defence Ministry dated September 4, 2012, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony (L) looks on as China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie speaks during a meeting at The Ministry of Defence in New Delhi.

NEW DELHI: India’s defence minister will lead a high-level delegation to China on Thursday, the first such trip in seven years, as the two sides ramp up efforts to rebuild trust after a recent flare-up over a border dispute.

The three-day trip coincides with a five-day official visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to China, his first foreign visit since his May election.

AK Antony will meet his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan during the three-day visit, with talks to include peace on their shared border as well as regional security issues, the defence ministry said.

“Both ministers are expected to discuss a number of issues, including those related to maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border... and matters relating to regional and global security,” India’s ministry said in a statement.

Antony’s trip is the first by an Indian defence minister since 2006 and comes after a spat between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in May over troop movements in a disputed Himalayan border region.

Delhi alleged Chinese troops intruded nearly 20 kilometres into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved after talks between local military leaders, and a withdrawal of troops from both sides.

The Line of Actual Control has never been formally demarcated, although the sides have signed accords to maintain peace in the region that was the site of a brief Indo-Chinese war in 1962.

Antony was also likely to hold negotiations on a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, a new mechanism suggested by China last year for improving border security, an official said.

His delegation, due to arrive in Beijing on Thursday evening, includes the defence secretary and top military commanders.

The trip comes after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to build trust with India, declaring that ties between the Asian giants were key to world peace, during a visit to New Delhi in May.

Li made India the first destination on his first foreign visit, since China’s leadership change in March, which he said showed the importance that Beijing attached to ties with Delhi.

Last month, India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon held negotiations on the boundary issue with his counterparts in Beijing.

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