India's defense minister said Saturday he does not see neighboring China as
an immediate threat, distancing himself from his Japanese counterpart, who
expressed groundless concern about the China's rapid growth.
Indian Defence Minister Pranab
Mukherjee speaks in this May 8, 2006 file photo.
"China is an important military power
from the beginning. We are fully aware of it, but every country has its own
perception of the development and modernization of their armed forces. We are
aware of that," Pranab Mukherjee said of India's onetime foe during an interview
with four Japanese newspapers.
In their talks Thursday, Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga
told Mukherjee of his concern about China's military buildup, calling for more
transparency in Beijing's defense programs and capability for the sake of
stability in Asia.
Mukherjee, who left Japan on Sunday for China, said his country has engaged
in dialogues with China "in a constructive manner for quite some time," stepping
up confidence-building measures and expanding economic relations.
"Ten years ago our trade was very modest, a few hundred million dollars, but
now it's 18 billion dollars. That tells how these two countries are coming
together," he said of the state of India-China relations.
Asked about India's own military modernization, Mukherjee stressed it is not
aimed at any neighboring country. "It's not a question of a hypothetical enemy,
but to protect our own people," he said.
China to boost military ties
Pranab Mukherjee arrived in China Sunday, seeking to expand military
co-operation between Beijing and New Deli.
Mukherjee is due to meet his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan and Foreign
Minister Li Zhaoxing today and will call on Premier Wen Jiabao tomorrow.
"My efforts will be to have a much larger participation in joint military
exercises, more exchange visits by armed forces personnel and an expanded mutual
training programme," Mukherjee was quoted as saying by Indian media ahead of the
According to an Indian Defence Ministry spokesman, the visit will be an
important milestone and a major confidence building measure in the progressive
relations between India and China.
He said the two countries are expected to conclude a memorandum of
understanding to institutionalise training and exercise exchanges between the
armed forces, defence officials and military experts.
Observers said such a deal could become an instrument for a regular and
sustained dialogue between the two countries on defence issues.
Senior officials from the ministries of defence and external affairs and the
defence research and development organization will accompany Mukherjee.
During his five-day China visit, he will also visit military bases in
Beijing, Shanghai and Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu Province.
Mukherjee kicked off his three-nation tour in Tokyo last Wednesday. He will
fly to Singapore on Friday.