India and China are discussing the opening of a sixth meeting point for military personnel along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to strengthen communication and confidence-building measures between troops.
The search for the sixth point – where military officials from the two sides will hold meetings on border management and border patrol incursions – received fresh impetus following the setting up of two new points in the western and eastern sectors last year.
Outgoing Indian Ambassador AK Kantha told Hindustan Times the new meeting point will be in the middle sector, possible in the Himachal Pradesh-Uttarakhand region on the Indian side.
“Currently, we are looking at possible locations, a location that is convenient for both countries,” Kantha said, adding the initiative will improve border management.
In 2015, two new meeting points were opened at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh and Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh. The other three points are Spanngur Gap in Ladakh, Bum-La in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in Sikkim.
Officials from both countries are looking at sites that would be logistically convenient for meetings between the military personnel.
Incursions by Chinese troops along the ill-defined 4,057-km with India have emerged as a key irritant in recent years. Incursions also triggered a standoff between troops of the two sides in 2013 and 2014.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Beijing in May 2015, he and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang decided to increase the number of border meeting points for military personnel from the existing four even as they agreed that peace and tranquillity on the frontiers was an important guarantor for development.
Kantha said improving bilateral defence relations is a key thrust area. “It is a key subset of overall relations,” he said, adding this will contribute to addressing the issue of “trust deficit” between the two sides.
Cooperation between the two countries in counter-terrorism is gradually deepening and is likely to be a thrust area in the coming months. “The desire is to step up functional cooperation in counter-terrorism,” Kantha said.
“Pragmatic cooperation with India is what the Chinese are looking at. The last couple of years have seen intensive – and highest-level – exchanges between the two countries. From India, besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all top ministers visited China in 2015. From China, three members of the Politburo and senior military officials went to India,” he added.
The desire is to broad-base ties and expand cooperation, said the diplomat who has lived in or focussed on China for 16 years.
Kantha said new consulates were being set up in Chengdu and Chennai and were likely to be operational in the first half of 2016.
He added that India can use China’s strengths to enhance its own development, and cited “Make in India” and “Skill India” as initiatives that could benefit from Chinese strengths in technology.