November 8, 2004
The Defense Ministry’s annual report presented to Parliament yesterday warned that India is closely monitoring China’s “military modernization, nuclear and missile arsenals, and continental and maritime aspirations” for its own security.
The report also criticized what it described as China’s “close defense relationship and regular military assistance to Pakistan”.
But it also notes that India and China have recently stepped up efforts to build mutual trust and confidence by trying to resolve a festering boundary dispute which led to the 1962 war.
The report promises to work together with China to maintain peace and tranquility along their 3,500-km long border pending a settlement of the boundary dispute.
Analysts say that Tibet’s rapid militarization is a major cause of concern for India as it enhances the reach and penetrability of China’s defense forces, particularly the air force.
India is suspicious of Beijing’s motives for building the 1,118-km long railway — the world’s highest — from the Tibetan capital Lhasa to Golmud in western China since 2001.
The two countries have had an uneasy relationship of mutual distrust and rivalry since the 1962 war. Beijing distrusts India after it gave shelter to the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, following a 1959 revolt against Chinese rule, and a Tibetan government-in-exile is still headquartered at Dharamsala in India.
But bilateral ties have been improving since 2001 when former National People’s Congress Chairman Li Peng spent eight days in India.
And last year, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee paid a highly successful visit to China — the first by an Indian premier in 10 years. The biggest gain of his visit was the appointment of senior politicians to resolve the boundary dispute.
The nuclear-armed neighbors have still not demarcated a border, with the post-conflict Line of Actual Control identifying their respective territories.
India claims China is occupying 38,000 sq km of Indian territory in the remote Aksai Chin area and 5,180 sq km in northern Kashmir, ceded to it by Pakistan.
China claims rights to 90,000 sq km of Indian-held territory, including almost the whole of the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.