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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 19:37 GMT
China and India: Suspicions remain
Tang and Singh
Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh (R) was sent to China
By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

Relations between the two most populous countries in the world have for the most part over the last decade been harmonious.

Evidence of their increasing diplomatic contact was clearly seen in 1996, when Chinese president Jiang Zemin made the first visit to India by a Chinese head of state.

The only time in the 1990s that bilateral relations took a turn for the worse was two years after Mr Jiang's visit, when India and Pakistan conducted a series of nuclear tests.

Li Peng arrives in Delhi
Li Peng: Hoping to improve ties with India
Beijing feared that South Asia could become the world's next nuclear battle ground, and said that the tests posed a threat to world stability.

The sense of tension was made worse at that time because the outspoken Indian defence minister, George Fernandes, said that China posed a greater threat to Indian security than Pakistan.

1962 war

Despite its private anger over Mr Fernandes' comments, China remained silent.

Shaky history
India humiliated in border war

Rajiv Gandhi visits China

Jiang Zemin in landmark India trip

Nuclear tests disrupt ties

Jaswant Singh visits Beijing

Indian president in maiden China trip
India was quick to repair the damage.

The Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, was swiftly despatched to Beijing on a damage limitation exercise.

Since then, the thawing of Sino-Indian relations has continued unabated.

Bilateral relations today are a far cry from 1962, when the two countries fought a brief border war in which India lost large amounts of land to the Peoples' Liberation Army.

It was a humiliating defeat for India and contacts between the two countries remained at a minimum until the historic visit by the Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, to China in 1988.

After that visit both countries gradually reduced the level of troops on their borders and Chinese and Indian military commanders in sensitive posts began to meet on a regular basis.

Still wary

However, differences between the two countries still exist.

China remains concerned about Delhi's nuclear capacity.

Bhabha Atomic Research centre
China is concerned over India's nuclear programme
It refuses to acknowledge that the tiny Himalyan state of Sikkim is part of India.

India says that it is still concerned about China's traditionally warm relationship with Pakistan.

Delhi says that over the years Beijing has supplied Islamabad with technology to make nuclear weapons in addition to numerous conventional arms.

Although this is something that has been consistently denied by Beijing, the focus of Indian policy in its relations to China has been to try and discourage Chinese military backing to Islamabad.

Delhi is also eager to develop stronger trade relations with its neighbour to the north.

With this in mind, Delhi will no doubt do its utmost to ensure that hundreds of Tibetan exiles who have demonstrated in Delhi earlier this week against Li Peng's visit do not have too high a profile.

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See also:

09 Jan 01 | South Asia
Li Peng arrives for India tour
09 Jan 01 | Media reports
Indian press cool on China ties
03 Apr 00 | South Asia
India and China still wary
07 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
China presses India on nuclear weapons
22 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
China and India sign trade deal
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