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India to seek interaction with Chinese forces

India to propose scaling-up the level of joint exercises and training programmes in a bid to enhance confidence building measures.

india Updated: May 21, 2006 11:04 IST

India will seek larger interaction with the Chinese armed forces by proposing scaling-up the level of joint exercises and training programmes in a bid to enhance confidence building measures.

These proposals will be put forward by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee who will be visiting China for four days from May 28. He embarks on a three-nation tour of Japan, China and Singapore from May 24.

"My efforts will be to have much larger participation in joint military exercises, more exchange of visits by armed forces personnel and an expanded mutual training programme," Mukherjee has said.

Though the Indian and Chinese navies have held two rounds of joint naval manoeuvres of substantive content, the interaction between the ground forces has been confined to border bonhomie meetings and mountaineering expeditions. There has been no no air force to air force contact.

Now apparently, Mukherjee wants to break the ice by proposing greater military-to military interaction, even as top emissaries continue to sit across to resolve the boundary dispute across the Himalayan frontier.

"We have developed relationship with China politically, economically and commercially ... These all-round developments, I think, should also be reflected in defence cooperation," Mukherjee said.

Observing that the two countries have taken "good initiatives" in developing confidence building measures along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Mukherjee said "their (China's) admission of Sikkim as an integral part of India is a major development, which the Chinese Prime Minister made during his visit to India in April last year.

"In that context, my efforts would be to expand this (India-China) relationship in defence cooperation by larger participation in joint exercises, exchange of visits (by armed forces officers) and training and defence-related activities. I would like to build up closer cooperation with China," he said.

His visit to China comes in the wake of stepped up momentum in visits by top military leaders and commanders on either side. Indian Army commanders as well as top brass from People's Liberation Army have recently acted as observers in large-scale ground forces' manoeuvres.

Though Mukherjee did not not elaborate on the issue of expansion of military exercise, according to sources, the two countries might propose to hold joint ground forces' exercises initially on the borders and later take them to the level of holding interaction on subjects like anti-insurgency operations and peacekeeping.