A lack of mutual trust between Indian and Chinese governments has prevented the two militaries from expanding the scope and scale of their limited ongoing counter-terrorism exercise, Hand-in-Hand (HiH), Chinese academics have said.
For two of the largest militaries in the world, the lack of more regular exercise-like engagements could further fuel suspicion, they felt.
The 5th edition of the 10-day exercise will conclude tomorrow in the hilly suburbs of Kunming in southwest China at the training base for the Infantry Battalion of the 14 Group Army of the PLA, who are taking part in the drill.
The 2nd Battalion of India Army’s NAGA Regiment flew in on October 11 to take part in the bilateral exercise for the first time.
But the scope of the exercise, according to academics, leaves much to be desired.
“.. the interaction between the personnel is restricted is mainly lack of trust because of cold-war mentality. To increase the interaction, first of all, is to discard hostile attitude towards the counterpart,” Wang Dehua, director at the Institute for South and Central Asia Studies in Shanghai told HT.
Guo Suiyan from the Kunming-based Institute for South Asian Studies during the first edition in 2007, the exercise was heavily covered in the state-controlled Chinese media but over the years, the coverage has decreased.
“It was a huge progress when it started. But the lack of trust has ensured that the exercise remains a small scale one,” Guo said.
Privately, military officers say that discussions to include the air force and the navy in the engagement have remained at discussion stages.
The long and disputed border between India and China might be mostly quiet but greater interactions and engagement between the two militaries were needed to tackle stand-offs, Wang said.
“Yes, progress has been made along the border to prevent stand-offs between the two militaries, but current mechanisms are not adequate,” Wang added.
“High level of synergy was visible between contingents,” a brief statement from India’s Ministry of Defence said Wednesday evening.
Clearly, many think that it is time that the simulated synergy, even if gradually, is converted to real camaraderie between the two militaries.