Less than six months ago their fellow soldiers were caught in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in a remote area in Ladakh. On Tuesday, however, soldiers from the Indian and Chinese armies began an anti-terrorism exercise titled "Hand-in-Hand” in southwest China’s Sichuan province with their eyes firmly on enhancing mutual trust and boosting cooperation between two of the largest and better-equipped armed forces in the world.
A joint exercise between the militaries of the two countries is being held after five years – the first one was held as recently as in 2007.
About 160 personnel each from the 16 Sikh Light Infantry of Indian Army and the 1st Battalion Infantry Division of 13 group of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will take part in the nine-day exercise being held some 200 km south the provincial capital, Chengdu.
In all three platoons from each side are participating in the exercise.
The Chengdu Military Command is one of the seven PLA commands and includes the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).
The army personnel on Tuesday began their familiarisation process with a display of martial arts – the Punjabi Gatka and Chinese Kung Fu – and weaponry.
In the days to come, the two contingents will exchange one platoon with each other and then carry out joint training exercises.
In 2007, the first joint military exercise was held in Kunming, a city in southwest China, and the second at Belgaum in Karnataka in 2008.
But the next round was called off by India following the denial of visa to a top general heading troops in Jammu and Kashmir on the grounds that the region formed part of disputed territory.
Adding to the current engagement’s significance is that it is taking place in the same year when months’ earlier India had accused China of incursion across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Depsang in Ladakh.
In April, Chinese soldiers pitched tents in Indian territory and the issue was resolved after nearly three weeks of tense negotiations.
The subsequent Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) between the two countries was signed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Beijing last month. The agreement, among other things, hopes to regulate troop movement along the LAC.
“Since the beginning of this year China-India relations have scored new progress. Bilateral cooperation in the field of military has achieved in-depth development. Relevant military drill shows the enhanced political mutual trust between our two countries. We wish the drill a success,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at the regular press briefing on Tuesday.
Yang Jinshan, deputy commander of the Chengdu Military Command told state-run Xinhua news agency that the training is intended to exchange anti-terror experiences, enhance mutual understanding and trust, and boost cooperation between the two armies.
Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia, Indian Army observer group leader, said that the exercise was the perfect beginning for renewed bilateral cooperation and friendship. “We intent learning best practices of each other which would be mutually beneficial for both the armies,” he said.