In the last decade even as India has looked at several foreign countries for upgrading its dwindling fleet of combat aircraft, China has never figured on the list of possible sellers
India and China's long and acrimonious history is well known to us. Indeed it is precisely that history which has proven a bone of contention between the two Asian powers. Otherwise, there seems to be little reason why India and China could not happily co-exist. Especially on the military front, China has a burgeoning military-industrial complex, while India has massive demands.
In the last decade even as India has looked at several foreign countries for upgrading its dwindling fleet of combat aircraft, China has never figured on the list of possible sellers.
However, things may change now.
A top ranking official with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) told Asianet Newsable that Beijing was ready to partner with India, and in fact, has expressed its willingness to Indian officials on a future technology partnership.
And one of the first areas of interest between the two nations is certainly the Air Force. When compared to the Chinese air force, India is still far behind. China has a massive force of over 3500 combat aircraft, many of them at the cutting edge of technology. India has over 600 aircraft, but many of them are over 40-years-old.
Indian defence experts have always maintained that the country needs more than the Rafale to match up to the Chinese. Are we now, so to speak, cutting out the middle man and simply getting what we want from the Chinese themselves?
At the very least, India is looking to modernise its fleet aggressively. It is here that the Chinese see potential and Aero India 2017 seems to be the first step to explore that potential.
This is the first time that China has been invited to the Aero India show. The six-member Chinese delegation, during their interaction with Asianet Newsable, confirmed that the Indian Air Force invited them.
Asianet Newsable caught up with a senior ranking official and spoke to him via his official translator. Among other things, he confirmed that the Chinese had produced several top-class aircraft with advanced capabilities, which might be of interest to India.
The top Chinese official, who spoke to Asianet Newsable on condition that his name and rank be withheld, said that the two neighbours have emerged as powerful nations and it was in their mutual interest to become better neighbours. Replying to a question on the constant tussle between India and China, especially its borders, the top military brass said that the effort to make peace must be made from both sides.
"As we Chinese say, 'A close neighbour is better than a distant relative,' that is why we are here," he said. "This is not a military mission, consider this as a peace mission." It is not just business alone; there are several other areas that India-China can look for collaborations. Be it peace-keeping missions, counter-terrorism or joint military exercises.
However, amid all this new found friendship, China's extended support to Pakistan, which it describes as a valuable ally, remains a sore point. Can we risk doing business with a good friend of Pakistan? Well - this hasn't stopped us from buying from the Americans.