India and China on Thursday agreed to work towards full implementation of ongoing confidence-building measures (CBM) along the border as well as improve military to military interactions. This was agreed during bilateral consultations between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and visiting Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe.
“It was decided to expand the engagement between the Armed Forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions. Both sides also decided to work towards a new bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on defence exchanges and cooperation to replace the MoU signed in 2006,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
General Wei is on a four-day visit to India, which comes exactly a year after the 73-day military stand-off at Doklam.
The 27-member delegation accompanying him consists of key military officials, including Vice Chief of the Central Military Commission Air Marshal Dingqui Chang and Lieutenant General Guiqing Rong, Vice Commander of the Western Theatre Command, which handles the entire border with India.
The statement further added that in order to ensure peace and tranquility on the border, both Ministers agreed on greater interactions at the working level, including operationalisation of the hotline between the relevant departments of the Armed Forces.
The two countries are also working on setting up additional Border Meeting Points (BPM) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There are five BPM points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Bum La and Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul in Ladakh, and Nathu La in Sikkim. Another BPM was added earlier this month on the eve of Independence Day.
The two armies are expected to resume the bilateral joint training exercise Hand-in-Hand this year. Last year, it did not happen because of the Doklam stand-off. The exercise is normally scheduled for November and officials said the modalities have to be worked out.
There was a suggestion from China for joint patrolling on the LAC. But it is not expected to move forward as India is not keen on it. “It cannot be done as there is no demarcated boundary,” an official source said.
General Fenghe had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, a meeting during which Mr. Modi termed India-China relations as a factor of stability in the world.