There weren’t many heartfelt kisses and roses when General Liang Guanglie stepped off the plane in New Delhi to begin the first trip by an active Chinese defense minister in eight years. He and Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony promised to hold joint military exercises “at the earliest,” but big smiles and handshakes won’t solve the many thorny problems on the discussion table.
The reason they won’t—the main issue—is that India fears China’s growing strength. Officials in New Delhi wring their hands as Chinese companies and the government in Beijing deepen ties to India’s neighbors and rivals—particularly Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. China has been active in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a sensitive area for India, and on top of all this there are decades-old border disputes yet to be resolved.
“I don’t see the visit of Liang Guanglie as some breakthrough but the two sides hope to gain a better understanding of each other’s strategic intentions”, Zhang Li, professor at the South Asia Institute of Sichuan University, told the Financial Times.
All that said, keeping the relationship as calm as possible is a good thing. The United States would like to see the two giants move toward friendly competition. The better they get along, the more peaceful and prosperous everyone will be.