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CHINA: Pakistan and India

Traditionally China supported Pakistan against India. Now it is being more even-handed. China and India launched their first joint naval exercise just weeks after the Chinese navy held a similar drill with India's bitter rival, Pakistan.

India confirmed that a search-and-rescue exercise had begun in the East China Sea off Shanghai. Nuclear powers India and China agreed to hold the one-day exercise, and wrap up a decades-old border dispute during Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit in June.

The world's two most populous nations fought a brief border war in 1962, but ties have grown closer in recent years. India had first proposed maneuvers in the early 1990s, but China then declined. The exercise was aimed at ensuring the safety of maritime trade and improving coordination in search-and-rescue at sea, the Indian Defense Ministry said. The drill comes as China has raised its profile on the world stage, putting a man in space, hosting six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis and managing one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

China is Pakistan's main supplier of military hardware, and analysts believe Beijing also helped Islamabad's nuclear weapons program. The China-Pakistan exercises preceded a visit to Beijing by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. But India and China see huge potential in economic ties. Indian imports of Chinese goods by far outstrip India's exports to China, but China's booming economy may offer an increasingly attractive export market if it opens up to international trade. (Reuters, 11/17/03).

Ronald Hilton - 11.30.03