Since both countries became independent nations, there has only been a single Sino-Indian armed conflict in 1962. Since then, even while India and China were engaged in war on other fronts, the Sino-Indian border has remained calm.
However, despite such a peaceful record, neither military has much contact with the other, a situation that makes them susceptible to disinformation from those countries that gain by India and China remaining geopolitically apart. Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie's visit to India on Tuesday will help reduce this "knowledge deficit" between the two ancient countries.
As the two countries are facing the same threats from foreign sources, separatism and terrorism, it would be in the overall interests of India and China for the militaries of the two to cooperate with each other.
At present, while defense links between India and the US are high and rising, military-to-military ties with China are near zero. This has created an imbalance in India's strategic diplomacy, and a propensity to look at the international situation through a narrow rather than a broad-spectrum lens.
As a consequence of the lack of adequate contact, despite the huge common ground on international issues, media attention in both countries gets focused on the relatively smaller areas where the two countries' views diverge. Such a perception plays into the hands of outsiders who seek to keep China and India apart. They know that were China and India to come together in meeting common security challenges, no outside powers can dominate Asia.
Both China and India have demonstrated their commitments to peaceful resolution of disputes, in contrast to NATO, which is daily engaged in acts of war in locations across the world, actions that have caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. Peace is win-win, while war is usually zero-sum. The two militaries that give priority to peace over war, those of China and India, are natural partners of each other.
The lack of significant military-to-military ties between two countries that together have armed forces totaling over 6 million people is mirrored by a lack of ties in other spheres. For example, there are hardly a dozen direct flights between India and China, while cultural and sports contacts are also low. This is in contrast to business, which is expanding rapidly.
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