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India, China to resume joint military exercises

Tuesday September 04, 2012 10:15:34 PM, IANS

New Delhi: India and China Tuesday agreed to resume joint military exercises at the earliest and boost security ties in the border areas, a source of occasional friction between the two Asian powers.

Gen Liang Guanglie, the first Chinese defence minister to visit India in eight years, also sought to assuage Indian concerns over China's attempts to increase its military and diplomatic footprint in South Asia.

The two sides also focused on building strategic trust in ties that are prone to hiccups, and agreed to boost confidence-building measures against the projected scenarios of rivalry in the Asia-Pacific sphere.

The decision to resume joint military exercises, stalled in 2010 due to a diplomatic spat over visa issues, was announced after 90-minutes of talks between Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Gen Liang.

"We have reached important consensus on strategic issues and for cooperation in promoting friendly ties, including between our armed forces," Gen. Liang, on a four-day visit to India, told reporters.

He spoke through an interpreter outside the defence ministry.

He added the two sides had also reached agreement on exchanges between their militaries, including high-level visits, between officers and also between their navies besides maritime security cooperation.

India is understood to have conveyed its concerns over the increased activities of Chinese troops in Pakistani Kashmir.

Liang is understood to have assuaged India's fears and clarified that the People's Liberation Army has not deployed any soldier in Pakistan-held Kashmir.

The shifting geopolitical regional dynamics figured prominently in the discussions.

"We covered a lot about the situation in the South Asia, Asia-Pacific regions and we have covered a lot of issues," Antony said.

"We had a very frank and heart-to-heart discussions on all the issues... including in the border areas."

Terming the talks as "very fruitful and candid," Antony said he has accepted an invitation by Liang to visit Beijing next year.

"We have decided (to resume army-to-army exercises) and I have also accepted the invitation to visit China next year."

Antony added that the two countries discussed way to improve relations in the border areas and the situation in South Asia and Asia Pacific regions.

"It was agreed to conduct the next round of joint military exercises at the earliest," the Indian defence ministry said.

"They also agreed to strengthen border security cooperation between the border troops so as to enhance and maintain peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas," a ministry statement said.

Joint military exercises between India and China started in 2007 but paused in 2010 after diplomatic spats over visa issues.

Their first joint military exercise was held in Kunming in China in 2007, followed by a second edition in Belgaum in India in 2008.

India suspended all bilateral defence exercises after Beijing denied visa to then Northern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. B.S Jaswal, on grounds that he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed area claimed by Pakistan.

The military ties resumed late last year with both sides underlining the need for building greater strategic trust.

The two ministers focused on greater confidence building measures and coordination among their militaries in the border areas, where China has built massive infrastructure on its side of the frontier.

China is understood to have allayed Delhi's concerns over Beijing's military infrastructure build-up along the border and stressed on greater cooperation to avoid misunderstandings.

Liang's visit comes barely weeks before once-in-a-year leadership transition gets under way in Beijing.





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