NEW DELHI // A rare visit to India by China's defence minister should help avoid flare-ups along the border between the Asian giants.
But General Liang Guanglie's trip, the first by a Chinese defence minister in eight years, also highlights growing competition between the two emerging powers as they jostle for influence and resources across Asia.
Gen Liang arrived in Mumbai on Sunday after stopping in Sri Lanka.
There he sought to play down Indian fears that China is threading a "string of pearls" - or encircling it by financing infrastructure and military strength, stretching from Pakistan to the Maldives.
"China attaches great importance to its relations with the South Asian nations, and commits itself to forging harmonious co-existence and mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation with them," he said in speech to Sri Lankan soldiers.
"The PLA's [People's Liberation Army] efforts in conducting friendly exchanges and cooperation with its counterparts in the South Asian nations are intended for maintaining regional security and stability and not targeted at any third party."
As emerging superpowers, India and China have a complex relationship. Trade has grown at a dizzying rate but Beijing is wary of India's close ties to Washington and memories of a border war with China half a century ago are still fresh in New Delhi.
Despite 15 rounds of high level talks to resolve the dispute about where their Himalayan border lies, neither side is close to giving up any territory. Gen Liang is not expected to broach the territorial issue on his trip.
Analysts say Gen Liang's India tour will demonstrate that Beijing is managing the often twitchy relations with its neighour just ahead of its once-in-a-decade leadership transition.
"China's leadership has one primary objective: how do we continue without any convulsions," said Uday Bhaskar, the director of the National Maritime Foundation, a New Delhi think-tank.
"You do not want to have anything to do with India just now which is rocking the boat, as it were."
Both China and India say they are committed to attaining prosperity through peaceful means. Business relations are booming and trade flows have reached an annual US$75.5 billion (Dh277bn), up from just $3 billion a decade ago. Trade is skewed in China's favour.
During the four-day trip to India, Gen Liang will talk about border security with his counterpart, AK Antony, India said this week, and they may announce a new round of joint military exercises, following on from a recent joint naval practice in Shanghai.
No more details have been announced, but the two sides are expected to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the security challenges they face when Nato forces start leaving the region in 2014.
Gen Liang's delegation includes Yang Jinshan, the commander of the Tibet military district - on the vast and troubled Himalayan plateau bordering India. China and India fought a brief border war in 1962, two years after India gave asylum to the Dalai Lama, who Beijing considers a separatist.
The last time a Chinese defence minister visited India was in 2004. Since then, Beijing has spent billions of dollars on train lines, roads and military hardware in Tibet. India has also spent heavily to strengthen its defences along the frontier, which the two sides dispute, despite years of talks.
Jayadeva Ranade, a retired Indian senior civil servant and China expert, said China's recent warmth toward India reflected its concerns about military escalation in the South China Sea, and perception that India is being drawn into the US "pivot" to Asia, which Beijing sees as containment.
While he welcomed Gen Liang's trip, Mr Ranade said India was disappointed China's next president had not yet visited.
"It's a tepid gesture - earlier they were expecting a higher level visit, Xi Jinping was expected to come. That would have been something."