Indian Ocean big enough for China and India
In recent years, Sino-Indian military relations have advanced in tandem with the advance of state-to-state relations. And high-level visits, defense and security consultations, border cooperation, joint drills and personnel training have taken place. Ever since 2007, the ministries of defense of the two countries have held eight rounds of defense and security talks. The two countries’ militaries have conducted six joint drills on counter-terrorism named “Hand-in-Hand”.
What I would like to highlight in particular is that during the National Day and military festivals, the border troops invite each other for joint celebrations.
The greatest challenge to China and India is the border issue. The issue seems particularly challenging since China has resolved border disputes with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations. It is gratifying that China and India have established a principle of resolving the border issue through three steps. Both believe that the border dispute has to be managed properly, and peace and stability maintained before a fair and reasonable resolution acceptable to both sides can be found. Efforts must be made to prevent small incidents from becoming large, as they can affect the overall bilateral relationship.
As a result of joint efforts, the Sino-Indian border has by and large maintained long-term stability. Not a single bullet has been fired across the border for more than three decades. This is rarely seen in the whole world. It demonstrates that the confidence-building measures adopted over the years have been effective. The peaceful settlement of the standoff in Donglang has once again proven the political wisdom of both countries.
Since 1993, quite a few agreements and protocols on maintaining peace and stability in the border areas have been signed by the two governments and the two militaries. And coordination mechanisms on the border issue have been established at different levels.
The confidence-building measures in the military field along the Line of Actual Control in the border areas are concrete and pragmatic. For example, both sides agreed that in the areas where there is disagreement of understanding, the patrol troops of one side will not follow the other side in patrolling. The two countries have set up meeting points where the border troop officers can meet regularly and talk over the phone to maintain contact on border control. Delegations of border troops, neighboring regional commands and younger officers have exchange of visits to deepen mutual understanding and enhance mutual trust.
Now I also wish to talk a bit about the “competition” between China and India. Militarily, there is no such thing as competition, be it in the Pacific Ocean or in the Indian Ocean. China appreciates that 55 percent of India’s international trade goes through the South China Sea, but India’s trade, like any other maritime trade that goes through the South China Sea, doesn’t have any obstacles.
Likewise, China has its own legitimate interests in the Indian Ocean which include primarily the safety and security of the strategic sea lanes, and the safety and security of Chinese property, Chinese investment and the Chinese nationals. The “Maritime Silk Road” proposed by China also goes through the Indian Ocean. In fact, China and India have joined other countries in fighting against piracy in the Indian Ocean since the end of 2008. In 2011, the Indian Navy helped in relieving the Chinese ship, which was attacked by pirates. And the Chinese Navy has escorted Indian ships.
If the Pacific Ocean can accommodate China and the United States, so can the Indian Ocean accommodate China and India.