Exercise Delay Shows India-China Rift

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The first ever land military exercise between India and China, originally scheduled for October 2007 and then delayed for a month, has again been delayed because the two long-time antagonists cannot decide on the details of dates and venue. The two nations had conducted minor joint naval exercise in the East China Sea in 2003.

The planned ground exercise was to be an anti-terrorism drill involving about 150 troops from each country. The principal purpose is to increase the confidence levels between the two countries, which fought a brief but bitter border war in 1962 and have been long-time rivals for power in southern Asia as well as having had continuing border disputes. As originally agreed, India was to send an Army unit to China for the exercise, but new negotiations will now be held to determine the details of the exercise.

The original agreement came after the Indian Armys chief of staff, General J.J. Singh, visited China at the end of May 2007. Those discussions, according to the Indian Defense Ministry, led to a decision on "engagement and mutual confidence building" including joint training exercises.

During the lengthy China-Soviet rivalry that began in the late 1950s, the Soviet Union became a prime arms supplier to India. Subsequently, China became a close ally and arms supplier of Pakistan, Indias long-time rival and opponent in several major conflicts and confrontations.

Those long-time alliances and rivalries involving the Soviet Union began to unravel with the demise of the Soviet regime at the end of 1991. Subsequently, the Russian Federation has become a major arms supplier and, in some respects, economic partner of China as well as of India. In August 2007 small Chinese and Russian military units held a joint exercise called Peace Mission 2007.

Significant political and territorial issues continue to divide China and India. At this time India contends that China occupies 14,670 square miles of its territory, while China claims the whole of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Still, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao have held recent meetings, with Singh promising "to do everything possible to cement our relationship." And, he declared, "Our government and people, regardless of their political affiliations, want the strongest relationship with China."

-- Norman Polmar

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