CHINA / National

Mukherjee: India sees no China threat
Updated: 2006-05-29 06:48

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. [AP]

"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.

India and 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 trip.

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.


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