After a hiatus of nearly two years, bilateral India-China defence relations are heading towards normal with the defence secretaries of the two countries scheduled to interact under the aegis of the annual dialogue on December 8-9.
The last meeting on the annual defence dialogue took place on January 6, 2010, after which exchanges were suspended in July as Beijing refused to give the visa to then northern army commander on grounds of his serving in Jammu and Kashmir.
While the agenda of the umbrella dialogue between defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deputy chief of general staff general Ma Xiaotian is being worked out, the direction of the bilateral defence cooperation will be set by national security advisor Shiv Shanker Menon during his visit to Beijing on November 28-29. It is understood that bilateral defence exercises are on the anvil with defence exchanges in respective institutes and the possibility of games between the troops facing each other across the 3,057-km line of actual control (LAC).
Menon will meet his counterpart and state councillor of China Dai Bingguo and give final touches to the new border dispute redressal mechanism, which will be handled by the foreign ministries of the two countries at joint secretary level. This mechanism will be at a higher plane than the flag meetings between sector commanders along the LAC. “What needs to be worked out is the frequency in which the two sides will be in touch and gravity of incidents on the disputed border, which will automatically activate the joint-secretary level mechanism,” said a senior official.
These two developments flow out of the positive Chinese action on the stapled visas front. Beijing has stopped issuing stapled visas to J&K residents after New Delhi took up the issue and there is hardly any movement of Arunachal Pradesh residents to China. The other is the meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit on November 18, 2011. While New Delhi stood its ground as far as oil and gas exploration off the coast of Vietnam was concerned, it also recognised the peace dividend of the tranquil border between the two countries.
While China has vastly improved its military logistics through road and railway infrastructure in the restive Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang province, the PLA has placed special emphasis on missile coverage of India through new complexes along the LAC.