BEIJING (AFP) — China said its first-ever joint military exercises with India that began this week were aimed at building trust between the neighbours, which still have rival claims to Himalayan territory.
The nine-day military exercises in southwest China, which involve around 100 troops from each side, began on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press briefing.
"The aim of the training is to enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust between the Chinese and Indian militaries," Qin said.
A Chinese defence ministry spokesman was quoted earlier on the official Xinhua news agency as saying that the training, in Yunnan province, would focus on counter-terrorism exercises.
The historic manoeuvres were announced after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit in Singapore last month.
China and India have a history of rocky relations, and they have yet to resolve a border row that triggered a brief but a bitter war in 1962.
India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (14,670 square miles) of its territory, while Beijing claims the whole of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is 90,000 square kilometres.
However ties between the regional rivals have thawed since the 1990s, and trade between the two has flourished in recent years.
Qin played down the effects of the lingering border dispute, emphasising the world's two biggest developing countries had much in common on international issues.
"In fact, it's very natural and normal for two countries to have differences," he said.
A second military drill is scheduled to take place in 2008 in India, an Indian defence ministry spokesman said earlier.
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