Chinese navy chief on maiden visit to India

November 2nd, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Chief Admiral Wu Sheng Li is in India on a maiden visit even as Indian Air Force chief Fali H. Major reached Beijing in an evident exchange of visits to boost bilateral relations.Wu arrived here late Saturday on a five-day visit to India.

“Wu is expected to meet the defence minister (A.K. Antony) and Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta. The Chinese navy chief is also likely to be hosted in the Western Naval Command headquarters in Mumbai,” a naval source said.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“There has been talk of enhanced defence cooperation between the two countries and right now the balance of visits to the other country is tilted on the Indian side,” said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The visit of the Chinese Navy chief will give a fresh impetus to military cooperation between two countries,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, is in 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.

“This will be a goodwill trip. Any IAF exercise with China is likely to take place only after that,” the IAF official said earlier.

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

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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