India, China to strengthen military ties

Talks between defence ministers seen as a step forward, following strained ties last year

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman before their discussions on Thursday.
Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman before their discussions on Thursday. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • India and China have agreed to expand their military ties and enhance interaction to ensure peace on their common border, India said after a meeting between the old rivals' defence ministers.

Relations between the Asian giants were strained last year over a 73-day military face-off in a remote, high-altitude stretch of their disputed Himalayan border.

But over recent months, the neighbours have been working on mending ties, and visiting Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week that their countries' friendship dated back to ancient times, reported Reuters.

On Thursday, General Wei had extensive discussions with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, the Indian government said.

"It was decided to expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions," the government said in a statement issued late on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The ministers also discussed their border and agreed to implement confidence-building measures to ensure the maintenance of peace, including the early operationalisation of a hotline between their armed forces, India said.

Gen Wei's four-day visit, which started on Tuesday, was the first by a Chinese defence minister in six years, according to a China Daily editorial on Thursday.

China Daily said Gen Wei's visit marks another major step forward in efforts by the two countries to rebuild trust between the two militaries.

The visit also underscores the importance of the two militaries maintaining strategic communication to avoid any misjudgment that could threaten peace and tranquillity along their 3,500km border, said the editorial.

India and China fought a war in 1962, and the unresolved dispute over stretches of their border has clouded relations ever since.

But the two big Asian economies share similar positions on a host of issues, including concerns about United States trade tariffs. Mr Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had also agreed in April to improve relations, according to Reuters.

The China Daily editorial said: "With a combined population of 2.6 billion, or 40 per cent of the world's total, the two largest developing countries can work together on many issues, such as global trade and climate change, poverty alleviation and counter-terrorism, on which they see eye to eye."

While it is unavoidable that there will be differences between China and India, Sino-Indian relations will continue to prosper as long as both countries take each other's concerns and interests into full account and seek to resolve their differences through talks and consultation, said China Daily.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2018, with the headline India, China to strengthen military ties. Subscribe