Experts say China is walking a diplomatic tightrope between India and Pakistan The first joint exercise by the navies of China and India is being interpreted by defence experts as Beijing's attempt to balance its relations with nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. 'A joint military exercise is a form of international diplomacy. And China is walking a diplomatic tightrope by carrying out naval exercises with India and Pakistan in a short span of three weeks,' said J.K. Dutt, a retired lieutenant-colonel and strategic affairs and international relations expert at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. Mr Dutt and other analysts said the war games, scheduled for next week, were being held so soon after the Pakistan games as a 'calculated balancing act' by China. China and Pakistan carried out joint naval exercises off the coast of Shanghai last month - China's first with another nation. While China has long-standing defence ties with Pakistan, frosty relations between Beijing and New Delhi began warming up after Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Beijing in June - the first visit by an Indian premier in more than 10 years. Next week's Sino-Indian naval exercise will also be staged off the Shanghai coast. Sources at India's naval headquarters told the Hindustan Times that a destroyer and a corvette from the Eastern Naval Command at Vishakapatnam had set sail for Shanghai. The Indian ships will be joined by a Luda-class guided missile destroyer in the 4,000-tonne range from the People's Liberation Army Navy. In September 2000, the INS Delhi and INS Kora paid a well-publicised visit to Shanghai to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China. The following year, Chinese navy ships visited Mumbai. Military ties between New Delhi and Beijing improved further when Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes visited Beijing at the height of the Sars outbreak in April at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Cao Gangchuan. Ironically, it was Mr Fernandes who left Sino-Indian relations in tatters in 1998 by branding China as India's main enemy to justify New Delhi's nuclear tests. Last month, Mr Fernandes expressed India's willingness to hold military exercises with China and co-operate with the PLA. A security expert said Mr Fernandes proposed a joint anti-piracy military exercise in the Strait of Malacca with the PLA navy to 'out-manoeuvre' Pakistan, but Beijing had politely turned down the proposal.