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China and India set to resume military drills

Updated: 2013-08-27 01:43
By Pu Zhendong ( China Daily)

Both sides to dispatch task forces of up to 150 members in November

Beijing and New Delhi are expected to resume their joint counterterrorism exercises in November after five years, despite the frequent occurrence of standoffs along border areas.

Seen as a major confidence-building measure between the world's two largest militaries, the third Hand-in-Hand exercise will be held in the Chengdu Military Command area from Nov 4 to 14, the Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed on Monday.

China and India set to resume military drills

Soldiers from China and India take part in the "Hand in Hand" joint military drill in 2007, in Kunming, Yunnan province. The drill was the first joint anti-terrorism exercise for the two armies since 1962, when the two Asian neighbors had a brief border conflict. The two countries held another "Hand in Hand" drill a year later. [Li Gang / Xinhua ]

According to media reports, the agreement was reached during a visit of Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony in July. Each side will dispatch task forces of 100 to 150 members to participate in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns.

"It will be a company-level counterterrorism exercise, with the Sikh Light Infantry participating from our side," an Indian official was quoted by local media as saying.

Two previous joint exercises of this kind have been held: "Hand in Hand 2007", in Kunming, Yunnan province; and "Hand in Hand 2008", in Belgaum, Karnataka, India.

Apart from resuming army exercises, the two countries have also agreed to launch joint air and naval drills.

Experts said the "Hand-in-Hand" drills, though not on a large scale, send a positive signal because they help ease border tensions between the two neighbors along the so-called Line of Actual Control, while strengthening mutual trust.

Sun Shihai, an Indian studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the resumption of the joint military drills by Beijing and New Delhi after five years indicates an improvement in understanding and mutual trust.

Ding Hao, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing, said the upcoming exercise is a good opportunity for the two militaries to further dispel suspicions.

"Joint exercises are the most important among all levels and forms of military cooperation. The resumption signifies an incredibly fast recovery of military ties between Beijing and New Delhi," Ding said.

"The two have both shown strong intentions to boost mutual trust by reopening dialogue and engaging in high-level exchanges after frictions," Ding added.

The two governments launched a mechanism for consultation on border issues last year. But ties are still occasionally strained by territorial issues.

In mid-April, Indian media claimed that Chinese defense troops had "trespassed on Indian territory" in the western sector of the disputed border area. Beijing denied the charge, saying that Chinese border defense troops, committed to safeguarding peace and tranquility in the border area, did not cross the line. The deadlock lasted for three weeks as both sides engaged in border talks.

China and India have launched 16 rounds of border talks so far.

"It is very common to have disputes between neighbors, and it takes effort and time to establish mutual trust, but bilateral agreements and coordination mechanisms are the basis of resolving all the existing problems," Sun said.

In mid-August, India launched its first nuclear submarine, the Arihant, and the aircraft carrier Vikrant, demonstrating its ambition to boost its military capabilities.

Ma Gang, a military history professor at PLA National Defense University, said that Sino-Indian relations should be centered on cooperation instead of an arms race.

"Developing a stable and positive military relationship is based on joint efforts from both sides," he said.

Zhang Fan contributed to the story.

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