China proposes border defence pact, India to go slow



New Delhi: China today proposed a border defence cooperation agreement to avoid any misunderstanding or flare up along the boundary but India is not rushing into it as wants to study the proposal thoroughly.

During a Secretary-level meeting here, the two sides decided to hold Army-to-Army counter-terrorism exercise in China this year. The dates would be finalised during the visit of an Indian Army delegation to China next month. The Indian delegation was led by Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.

At the meeting, the Chinese delegation led by its Deputy Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Qi Jianguo proposed an agreement under which troops of the two countries will not tail each other if noticed during patrolling along the disputed Line of Actual Control, sources said.

The proposal also has a clause which suggests that troops of either side will not fire at each other under each other under any condition, they said.

However, the Indian side gave no commitment, the sources said. India wants to study the proposal thoroughly and do due diligence before taking any decision.

This was the second meeting between Qi, who is in-charge for Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence in the People's Liberation Army, and Sharma in the last three months after they met at the Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) in January.

The Chinese side had discussed these proposals informally during the ADD also but India had then asked it to submit these points in a formal manner at a later stage.

The Army-to-Army exercise would be held after a gap of around five years. The first one was held in 2007 in Kunming in China while the second edition was held in Belgaum in Karnataka in December 2008.

The exercises were stopped after tensions between the two sides over denial of visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal in 2010 and issuing of stapled visa to residents of Jammu and Kashmir by China.

During the meeting, both sides agreed to finalise the plan of bilateral exchanges between the armed forces of India and China. It has been decided that exchanges will be conducted between the Armies, Navies and Air Forces on both sides, the Defence Ministry said in a release.

It was agreed that strengthening of exchanges between the armed forces should be carried out as a way of building mutual trust and confidence and consistent with the overall bilateral relationship between both countries, the release said.

Sharma and Qi also discussed issues relating to the regional security situation. The Chinese Lt Gen also called on Defence Minister A K Antony and conveyed that the new leadership in China attaches high priority to consolidate cooperative relations with India in all spheres.

Antony is also planning to visit China by middle of the year after which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also expected to visit Beijing.

PTI