In an interaction with Indian reporters in Beijing, Chinese officials said they believed that India and China needed to expand military ties.
As the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy expands its profile in the Indian Ocean with recent submarine visits to Sri Lanka and more recently Pakistan, its officials have moved to assuage India’s concerns by emphasising its motivations were driven by trade and security and not aimed at India, although with one important caveat: it would be a mistake for New Delhi to consider the ocean’s international waters as “its backyard”.
In an interaction with visiting Indian reporters in Beijing, officials from the Chinese Defence Ministry and the PLA’s top think-tanks, such as the National Defence University, PLA Air Force Command Academy and PLA Navy Academic Institute said they believed that India and China needed to expand military ties to reduce strategic mistrust, and bolster exercises between the armies, navies and air force.
Especially as the two navies more frequently encounter each other on the high seas of the Indian Ocean, where the PLA Navy (PLAN) has taken part in anti-piracy escorts since 2008, and in the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, where India is devoting more attention, Beijing is of the view the two sides need to do more to build trust – and be more open.
Senior Captain Zhao Yi, who is Associate Professor at the Institute of Strategy of the elite National Defence University, said: “I admit that geographically speaking India has a special role to play in stabilising the Indian Ocean region and South Asian region. But [for the Indian Ocean], backyard is not a very appropriate word to use for an open sea and international areas of sea.”
“If the Indian side views the Indian Ocean as its backyard,” he added, “it cannot explain why navies from Russia, the United States, Australia have the right of free navigation in Indian Ocean.”
He said one American scholar had warned of the possibility of “clashes” in the Indian Ocean. “I don’t agree,” Senior Captain Zhao said, but added: “If some countries view it as their backyard, then this [possibility] could not be eliminated.”
The Chinese experts did, however
2015 Kashmir Despatch