India, China defence ministers to meet Tuesday

Defence ministers of India and China were set to meet for talks on Tuesday with concerns over competing influence across South Asia likely to be high on the agenda, according to officials.

Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie will meet his counterpart A.K. Antony and top military staff after being received by a traditional honour guard in New Delhi, defence ministry officials said Monday.

The minister arrrived in India on Sunday on a four-day visit from Sri Lanka with Indian media saying he was travelling with a 23-member delegation.

"There will be a wide range of talks on regional and international issues but we don't expect (the disputed state of) Arunachal Pradesh to figure in the parleys," a senior ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The reference was to China's claims over the northeastern Indian state as well as other areas in the northwestern state of Kashmir.

Renewed joint military training exercises would also be discussed during talks, the Times of India reported.

The disputed border between India and China has been the subject of 14 rounds of fruitless talks since 1962, when the two nations fought a brief, bloody war over the issue.

China's buildup of military infrastructure along the frontier has become a major source of concern for India, which increasingly sees Beijing as a longer-term threat to its security than traditional rival Pakistan.

The visit is the first by a Chinese defence minister in eight years, and comes amid India's fears about Chinese activity in nations such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that New Delhi regards as being within its sphere of influence.

New Delhi is worried that Beijing may be seeking to encircle India.

Last week, however, during his Sri Lankan visit, the Chinese minister dismissed the idea that Beijing posed a threat.

"Some people in the international community suspect that China would take the road of expansion with force and have been actively spreading the 'China-threat theory'," he said in a speech.

China's efforts "in conducting friendly exchanges and cooperation with its counterparts in South Asian are intended for maintaining regional security and stability," he said.

The presence of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in the Indian hill town of Dharamshala is another cause of prickly relations between the two Asian giants.

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