New Delhi: Breaking the ice in their military ties, India and China Friday held their Annual Defense Dialogue (ADD) in “an atmosphere of cordiality” and decided to give a push to a mechanism for resolving issues and incidents along their 3,500-km-long borders.
The fourth round of ADD, held after nearly two years, was led by India’s Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Deputy Chief of General Staff General Ma Xiaotian. The two sides also discussed defense exchanges for 2012 and agreed to “gradually enhance” the range and scope of their interaction, according to Indian defense ministry officials.
This agreement has led to the two sides planning bilateral visits by mid-level military officers to either country, which was described by officials as “the net outcome” of the present round of ADD.
Under this plan, a delegation of a Chinese military team will be in India this month end, while an Indian team will visit China in January 2012.
Though the two sides discussed the scope of resuming their joint army exercise in 2012, no concrete plans could be arrived at, they said.
The ‘Hand-in-Hand’ exercise series began in December 2007 when China hosted an Indian Army team and this was reciprocated by India at Belgaum a year later. But since then, the exercise could not be held due to China’s engagement with major events such as 2008 Olympics and 60 years of People’s Republic in 2009.
At the three-hour meeting, India also put forward a few suggestions for the confidence building measures (CBM) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) based on their 2005 protocol for maintaining peace and tranquility, which the Chinese side agreed to consider, officials said.
“The fourth ADD was held, breaking the ice after the bilateral military ties had been frozen for a while,” the official said, without mentioning the unpleasant improper visa episode for an Indian General commanding troops in Jammu and Kashmir in 2010 that derailed their military-to-military engagement.
The fourth defense dialogue comes after nearly two years — the third round was held in Beijing in January 2010 — following a thaw in their bilateral relations after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Sanya, China, to attend the first BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group meet in April this year.
“The meeting was conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality and both sides were frank and constructive in their approach during the deliberations,” the official added.
The two countries had established the ADD under the provisions of a memorandum of understanding for ‘Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of Defense’ signed in May 2006. The first ADD was held in November 2007.
“Both sides agreed that the provisions of the 2005 protocol for implementation of CBMs on the LAC should be strictly adhered to by both sides so that peace and tranquility is maintained in the border areas,” the official said.
India is already mulling having a protocol with other nations to prevent skirmishes between their naval warships on the high seas.
Indian and Chinese warships have had unpleasant incidents in the past, including one two years ago when China accused an Indian submarine of having tracked their warships, heading into anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and forced it to surface.
“There was no new CBM that has been suggested. But this fourth round of ADD itself has acted as a great CBM,” the official said.
It was also noted at the meeting that the strengthening of the institutional mechanism for border discussions, which is expected to be operationalized soon through the establishment of a working-level mechanism, would improve communications on important border-related issues.
The Special Representatives level talks on border dispute between India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Chinese Special Representative Dai Bingguo scheduled in November were cancelled at the last minute as Beijing was miffed over a Buddhist conference in India being addressed by the Dalai Lama.
Apart from sharing their perspectives on the regional and global security issues, it was noted that the existing CBMs on the LAC were successful in maintaining peace and tranquility on the borders and it was decided that such measures would continue.
“Both sides agreed that the process of dialogue and communication should be strengthened at various levels to ensure stability in the border areas,” the official added.
General Ma Xiaotian also called on Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony, and Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, who is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
The Indian defense minister also extended an invitation to his Chinese counterpart to visit India at a mutually convenient time.