There may be friction between Indian and Chinese militaries along the common border, but both sides should focus on maintaining peace in the disputed areas, said a top People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general on Wednesday.
Lieutenant General Zhou Xiaozhou, chief of staff of Chengdu Military Region (CMR), said there had been “friction and twists and turns in the relationship between the two countries,” but it was “not a big deal.”
Zhou was speaking at the end of the nine-day ‘Hand-in-Hand anti-terrorism exercise’ between the two countries.
Asked by Hindustan Times on how better military exercise could prevent a repeat of incidents like April’s incursion by PLA at Depsang in eastern Ladakh, Zhou said compared to the greater good and common interests of the two countries, “…these things were not a major trend.”
PLA soldiers are often accused of illegally crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC), sometimes hundreds of times in a year. Similar figures of Indian incursions are never shared by Beijing.
Zhou said military relations were an important part of bilateral ties, adding that India and China were friends and partners, not rivals.
Quoting a Chinese proverb, Zhou said spoons and dishes would clank but that did not mean one should stop cooking or eating.
This was the third military training exercise between the personnel of the two countries’ armies, among two of the largest armed forces in the world.
More than 150 soldiers from the 16 Sikh Light Infantry, and an equal number of Chinese infantry personnel, took part in the exercise that culminated in a simulated live fire anti-terrorist exercise at the Miaoergang Comprehensive Training Facility, some 130km south of Chengdu.
Zhou said he had had discussions with visiting Lieutenant General AK Ahuja, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Tezpur-based Gajraj Corps, about tensions between the militaries at the border.
“We decided to focus on stability in our border areas. Peace is our goal. We should focus on greater good of both countries and peace and try to reduce friction as much as possible,” the PLA general said.
Ahuja said the understanding between the militaries should be used to maintain peace along the Indo-China border.
He added that maintaining peace on the border was important to ensure a safe and secure environment for both countries.
Officers indicated that the next ‘Hand-in-Hand’ exercise will be held in India in 2014, provided the diplomatic climate stayed conducive.
The current one was held after a gap of five years. India called off the exercises in 2008, following the controversy over China issuing a stapled visa to a senior Indian officer from Arunachal Pradesh.