Amid rising tension between India and Pakistan on the western border, top defence officials from India and China on Monday vowed to strengthen military ties under the new dispensation in Beijing.
The two sides agreed to expand and enhance bilateral exchanges covering the Armies, Navies and Air Forces of the two countries and also agreed upon a plan of bilateral military exchanges for 2013 including a joint military exercise.
Defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma met the vice-chairperson of China’s powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), Xu Qiliang, as part of the fifth annual defence dialogue between the two countries with two of the largest militaries in the world.
Sharma is heading a tri-service Indian delegation to Beijing. As part of the deliberations, Sharma also held talks with the deputy chief of staff of People's Liberation Army (PLA) Lt Gen Qi Jianghuo on Monday. The defence dialogue began days after Communist Party of China (CPC) general secretary, Xi Jinping – slated to take over as President in March – conveyed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the world has enough space for China and India to achieve common development.
In a letter handed over to Singh by state councillor Dai Bingguo during his New Delhi visit last week, Xi said that China-India relations have maintained stable development in the past few years, which has brought about substantial benefits to the two countries and the two peoples.
According to an official Chinese government statement on the defence dialogue, released through the state-run Xinhua news agency, Xu Qiliang said China attaches great importance in developing military ties with India and hopes to increase mutual strategic trust, enhance friendly communication and deepen pragmatic cooperation in order to promote strategic partnership for peace and prosperity and make positive contribution to the world and regional peace and stability. Xu said China and India, being the biggest developing countries in the world, are important neighbors for each other.
He noted that the two countries have extensive common interests and developing friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation is in line with the common aspiration of the two peoples as well as global development.
Sharma was quoted as saying that India too attaches great importance to developing its relationship with China and he is confident in the future progress of military relations between the two countries. It was learnt that the countries could resume joint military exercises this year.
The joint exercises aimed at improving military ties were held at Kunming (China) in 2007 and Belgaum in 2008 but later stopped after China began issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir since 2009.
Under this policy, China declined visa to Lt Gen BS Jaswal on the ground that he was commanding forces in the "disputed and sensitive" region of Jammu and Kashmir, which lead to the suspension of military ties between the two countries.
Beijing subsequently rolled back the policy. The two countries then established a consultation and coordination mechanism to deal with border incidents arising out of the patrolling of the disputed areas and began consultations on maritime security issues as their navies are currently involved in countering pirate attacks in Gulf of Aden.