China appreciates India’s post-earthquake aid

November 3rd, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) Signalling the strengthening of their bilateral ties, China has appreciated India’s helping hand in the aftermath of a major earthquake in May that left thousands dead.China expressed its gratitude during Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major’s visit to China on the invitation of Commander of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLA AF) General Xu Qiliang.

“The IAF chief was given a guard of honour at the PLA AF headquarters, where he met Xu. The PLA AF commander expressed gratitude to the IAF for carrying out relief operation after the earthquake in China,” an IAF spokesman said Monday.

A severe earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale had struck the Sichuan province of China causing large-scale havoc. The IAF airlifted more than 180 tonnes of relief material including medicines, tents, sleeping bags, blankets and ready to eat meals.

India and China fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962. However, since the late 1980s, the two countries have taken a series of steps to ramp up their relations, including the strengthening of military ties.

Major’s visit comes seven years after then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis visit to China.

“The IAF chief held discussions with Qiliang on bilateral issues. He will be meeting Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie and visiting Chinese military units in Hangzhou,” the spokesman said.

Major is on a weeklong visit to China to witness the first performance of the IAF’s Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT), which has enthralled spectators worldwide with its intricate manoeuvres in the skies.

Major went to Beijing with a proposal for joint air exercises with the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army’s air force.

The Surya Kiran team of 11 aircraft and their pilots has performed in several countries around the world and amazed spectators with its skills.

Meanwhile, Chinese navy chief Admiral Wu Sheng Li, on his maiden visit to India, Monday called on Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

“Wu was given a briefing about the force level of the Indian Navy and its interests in the Indian Ocean Region. The meeting to India is first by any Chinese navy chief. Hence it aims at breaking the ice first,” a senior naval official said.

The Indian Navy has long expressed apprehensions about the Chinese Navy’s incursions into the Indian Ocean region and hopes to “blunt” its thrust into this area through engagement.

Wu will Tuesday visit Mazagon shipyard in Mumbai and Karwar port in Gujarat. On Wednesday he will be hosted at the Western Naval Command’s headquarter in Mumbai.

The Indian and Chinese navies have held elementary drills - Passex (passage exercise) and Search and Rescue Exercise - in the past. They are now seeking to engage with each other for the first time next year to build up on the goodwill generated by the first joint exercise between the two armies last year.

Indian and Chinese warships have already been making calls at either country’s ports as part of growing confidence-building measures between the two sides.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India and China in May 2006 during a visit by then defence minister (and current external affairs minister) Pranab Mukherjee that said the two countries would hold joint military exercises, join forces in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts and also cooperate in search and rescue operations.

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