Exactly two months after the territorial standoff with China in eastern Ladakh ended, defence minister AK Antony will embark on a four-day visit to China on Thursday.
Antony’s visit is significant as it comes at a time when the two neighbours are negotiating a new border framework as a step towards resolving the niggling territorial dispute that has plagued bilateral ties.
A defence ministry official confirmed that Antony would hold talks with his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan revolving around maintaining peace and tranquility along the disputed border.
The two sides will also discuss stepping up exchanges and interactions between their armed forces and matters relating to regional and global security.
This will be the first visit by an Indian defence minister to that country in seven years - Pranab Mukherjee had visited China in 2006.
Antony had toured Singapore, Australia, and Thailand in early June, close on the heels of the prime minister’s visit to Japan and Thailand that had triggered unease in Beijing.
China has always been suspicious of growing strategic relations between India and countries in the Indo-pacific region. It has in the past flagged concerns about India roping Australia into bilateral naval exercises with the US.
Antony will be accompanied by a battery of senior defence ministry and army officials, including Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh, responsible for guarding India’s eastern border with China.
A week after the border standoff ended on May 5, Antony had stressed Delhi had no plans to slam the brakes on infrastructure development and building up of military capacity along the disputed border.
He said India had the right to develop infrastructure "on its soil" just the way China was entitled to ramp up capacities on its land.
Indian soldiers were eyeball-to-eyeball with Chinese troops in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector for three weeks starting April 15, after Chinese troops set up tents and took up positions 19km into Indian side of line of actual control (LAC).
China has repeatedly asked the Indian Army to stop infrastructure build-up and construction of bunkers in Fukche and Chumar areas of Ladakh.
It has also articulated concerns about infrastructure build up, including reactivation of advance landing grounds, in the DBO sector in the north and Nyoma in the east during the last four to five years.
The Chinese contention is that some of the build-ups along the LAC are in violation of protocols governing borders that had not been mutually delineated.