India, China to resume military exercises at ‘the earliest’
New Delhi: India and China Tuesday decided to resume at "the earliest" bilateral military exercises frozen in 2010 due to diplomatic spats over visa issues and also to enhance peace and tranquility at their border.
The steps by the two countries to boost defence ties and confidence-building measures were announced after crucial talks here between Defence Minister A K Antony and his Chinese counterpart Gen Liang Guanglie, the first Chinese Defence Minister to visit India in eight years.
Antony, who termed the delegation-level talks as "very fruitful", said he has accepted the invitation by Liang to visit Beijing next year.
"We have decided that (to resume Army-to-Army exercises) and I have also accepted the invitation by him to visit China sometime next year as per mutual convenience," he told reporters after the 90-minute talks at South Block, which houses the Defence Ministry.
Antony said that during the talks, the two sides held discussions about "improving relations at the border areas and the situation in the South Asia and Asia Pacific region".
In a statement, an Indian Defence Ministry spokesperson said, "It was agreed by the two sides to conduct the next round of joint military exercises at the earliest.
"They also agreed to strengthen border security cooperation between the border troops of the two sides so as to enhance and maintain peace and tranquility in the India- China border areas."
Liang said the two countries have "reached consensus for cooperation" and reviewed the progress made by the two sides.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said India and China should make the most of the opportunity presented by the year of "friendship and cooperation" between them in 2012.
Military exercises between the two countries kickstarted in 2007 but were put on hold in 2010 after a series of hiccups in the defence ties between the two sides.
The first exercise was held in Kunming, China in 2007 and the second in Belgaum in India in 2008. The third edition was to have been held in China in 2010 but is on hold.
After the denial of visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal by China in 2010, New Delhi had frozen all bilateral defence exchanges with Beijing.
The two sides are also understood to have discussed the presence of Chinese troops in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) region, an issue over which India has already voiced objections.