Visit aimed at reinvigorating defence ties and building trust

A 15-member Indian military delegation, truncated following a dispute over visas, arrived here on Monday on a four-day visit under an exchange programme that officials said was aimed at reinvigorating defence ties and reducing mistrust.

The tri-services delegation, led by Air Vice-Marshal PS Mann, will visit military units, naval facilities and airbases in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai, as well as interact with top officials of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The visit is the first by an Indian military delegation to China following last month's annual defence dialogue, held in New Delhi, which saw both countries agreeing to strengthen exchanges to enhance mutual trust.

The annual dialogue was resumed in December following an almost two-year hiatus, during which defence ties between the neighbours had been strained. Exchanges were suspended in July 2010 after China objected to hosting the then head of the Northern Command, Lieutenant-General B.S. Jaswal, because he was serving in Jammu and Kashmir, which China views as disputed.

This week's visit was also put in doubt, over visa issues. China did not issue a visa to Air Force (IAF) Group Captain Mohonto Panging from Arunachal Pradesh. He was included in a 30-member delegation scheduled to travel this week. China has a policy of not issuing regular visas to Indians from the State, which China has claims on.

India decided to send a truncated 15-member delegation, without Group Captain Panging, to ensure the visit went ahead and prevent a second suspension in exchanges in under two years.

The delegation will meet the PLA's Deputy Chief of Staff Ma Xiaotian, who is China's representative in the annual defence dialogue, at the PLA headquarters in Beijing on Tuesday.

During the four-day visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing, the tri-services delegation will also visit military units, airbases and naval facilities, as well as the PLA Science and Technology University.

The two countries agreed to boost exchanges following the defence dialogue, viewing regular visits as a way to reduce mistrust and as an important confidence building measure.