China hikes defence budget, wants friendly India ties (Lead)

March 4th, 2011 - 12:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, March 4 (IANS) China is willing to maintain friendly relations with neighbouring countries such as India in spite of the increase in its defence spending by 12.7 percent to 601 billion yuan ($91.5 billion) in 2011, a Chinese official was quoted as saying Friday.

China and India have reached a consensus on maintaining peace and tranquility of their border areas before border issues are eventually settled, said Li Zhaoxing, spokesperson for the annual session of China’s national legislature.

Xinhua quoted Li as saying that China plans to raise its defence budget by 12.7 percent to 601 billion yuan ($91.5 billion) in 2011, compared with an increase of 7.5 percent last year.

China is ready to work with India to implement relevant agreements to maintain a stable situation in border areas, which is conducive to the interests of the two countries, he said.

“It is true that China’s defence budget is raised a bit, but the ratio of the defence spending in the country’s GDP remains very low, much lower than those of many other countries,” Li told a press conference for the annual parliamentary session.

However, the ratio in India is far higher than two percent, he said when responding to a question on whether China’s defence budget increase would put pressure on its neighbouring countries such as India.

The year’s draft defence budget was 67.6 billion yuan more than 2010, and accounted for about six percent of the country’s total budget, said Li Zhaoxing.

“The government has always tried to limit military spending and it has set the defence spending at a reasonable level to ensure the balance between national defence and economic development,” Li said.

The former foreign minister said China’s defence expenditure is transparent and defensive in nature.

The bulk of the spending would go towards moderately improving armament, military training, human resource development, infrastructure of grassroots units and the living standards of the servicemen, said Li.

“China is committed to peaceful development and a national defence policy that is defensive in nature,” said Li.

Compared to the world’s average, he said, China’s military spending is low given its 1.3 billion population, vast land and long coastal lines.

“The limited military strength of China is solely for safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity and would not pose a threat to any country,” said Li.

China’s military strength in 2009 was over two million.

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