India and China may be inching closer towards resolving the deadlock over military exchanges, with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao asking his officials to look into the matter. Military contact between the countries has been stuck in a logjam since July 2010 when Beijing refused to host northern army commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal as his jurisdiction spanned Jammu and Kashmir, which China regards as disputed territory.
The joint statement issued on Thursday signaled a thaw in military ties, with the two sides reaffirming the importance of maritime security and agreeing to work together in tackling piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
The mention of maritime security is significant considering that India had boycotted a multi-nation maritime meet hosted by China in October —a fallout of Beijing denying visa to Gen Jaswal. Coast Guard chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra turned down an invitation from China to attend the annual Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting in Shanghai.
Jaswal had been picked up to head a military delegation to China for an annual defence dialogue, hosted alternately by the two countries to review progress in defence exchanges.
The dialogue forms part of an MoU signed by the two countries in May 2006 to enhance military engagement through a broad spectrum of initiatives ranging from joint military exercises, exchange of high-level defence delegations, opening doors for military training and swapping military observers during training exercises.
All bilateral defence exchanges have been put on hold, barring the border personnel meetings (BPM) — a military confidence building measure.
South Block sources said India wanted to engage the Chinese military constructively but cooperation could not be a one-way street. The first-ever India-China exercises, codenamed Hand-in-Hand, were held in Kunming province in 2007 followed by joint drills in Belgaum in 2008. The air force was weighing the possibility of joint aerial exercises in 2012, before military exchanges were wrecked.