Depending on one's geostrategic outlook, the dream, or nightmare, of a China-India axis - complete with 2.4 billion people - is a step closer with the recent announcement that the two countries will for the first time ever hold joint military maneuvers. The head of the Indian army after meeting with his visiting Chinese counterpart said that the armies were going to hold joint counter-terrorism and peacekeeping training programs. Ties between the two Asian giants have steadily improved over the past seven years, after reaching a low in 1998 when India tested its nuclear bomb and blamed the "China threat" for the need to have one. In a breakthrough last month, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited India, and the two sides agreed on a roadmap to settle their border row. On that occasion, Wen expressed China's support for India's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, bilateral trade (China has a deficit with India) increased to US$13.6 billion last year, from $1.9 billion in 1999-2000.