Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday that there was no tension between India and China. Sitharaman was speaking at the Naval Commanders’ Conference in New Delhi, The Hindu reported.

“We [India and China] are talking and meeting each other. That is a big change,” Sitharaman said on Tuesday, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in April. Sitharaman and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj have also visited China in recent months. However, the defence minister parried questions on Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean.

China has increased its presence in the Indian Ocean by building the Gwadar Port in southern Pakistan and a naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Ships belonging to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have been deployed for anti-piracy operations.

The defence minister said the Indian Navy will be a “force to reckon with” in the Indo-Pacific region, and added that she had discussions on matters raised by the commanders. Sitharaman highlighted the Indian Navy’s operations during heavy rain and flooding in Sri Lanka, after Cyclone Mora in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and Cyclone Ockhi in November last year.

Sitharaman said the Navy had been “furthering our national and foreign policy objectives through active cooperation and engagement with maritime countries across the globe”. But she added that India could not be completely self-reliant until its Navy developed indigenous weapons and sensors.