New Delhi, Aug. 24: India and China will draft a fresh memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation and further "expand" the engagements between their armed forces.
These decisions, among others, were taken at a two-hour meeting between Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart Lieutenant General Wei Fenghe here on Thursday.
On the two armies, an official Indian statement said: "It was decided to expand the engagement relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions." Both sides also decided to work towards a new bilateral MoU on Defence Exchanges and Cooperation to replace the MoU signed in 2006.
The previous one signed in May 2006 had a long list of possible points of cooperation.
The two sides discussed additional measures for peace along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto boundary between the two countries. "It was agreed to work towards full implementation of ongoing confidence building measures as well as greater interactions at the working level to ensure the maintenance of peace and tranquillity, including early operationalisation of the Hotline between the relevant departments of their armed forces."
Sources said China had agreed for a hotline at the level of the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and wants additional telephonic contact points that can address the multiplicity of issues all along the LAC. The suggestion is to keep interacting at unit level, commander level and have a standard protocol for meetings and interacting.
Lt General Wie at a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 21 had said he wanted the two countries to strengthen exchanges and cooperation between their militaries so as to jointly safeguard border stability and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity.
The two ministers held discussions on bilateral defence related engagement as well as regional and international developments in a free, frank and constructive manner, said the Indian statement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the informal summit in Wuhan in April this year had instructed the militaries to get talking.
On handling contentious issues (like Doklam) the need was to handle with sensitivity, restraint, rationality and maturity.
Sources said Sitharaman raised the issue of development in border areas as water supply and electricity should not be seen with doubt. India also wanted China to have zero tolerance towards cross border terrorism.
For India, the biggest issue with China is demarcation of the LAC or its perception on the ground. The matter is being dealt separately.
So far, there is no defined boundary between the two countries. The British tried to unsuccessfully demarcate the boundary at least five times between 1847 and 1914. The Tribune
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