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India, China defense ministers meet for the first time since Doklam standoff

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with China's Minister of Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe at the People's Liberation Army's Bayi Building in Beijing, China, on June 28, 2018. (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Department of Defense)

The defense ministers of India and China today sat down for talks focussed on stepping up strategic communication between the Asian countries who were engaged in a tense military standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam region last year. Chinese defense minister and state councillor Wei Fenghe was given a ceremonial welcome in New Delhi when he arrived for talks with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman. Wei, who arrived on Tuesday, had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the same day.

The visit of the Chinese defense minister follows an “informal” summit between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in April during which the two leaders had agreed to improve strategic communication in a bid to ensure that another faceoff like the Doklam standoff does not recur. That standoff was seen as the effect of differences in perception between India, Bhutan and China as to where the border lies. India and China have a 3,500km-long border, much of which is not delineated. The two countries have had 20 rounds of talks on the matter to no resolution.

There is speculation that Wei’s visit could result in the two sides coming up with certain steps to build trust between their armies as the countries work towards implementing the decisions taken by Modi and Xi in Wuhan.

One of the agreements was to enhance trust between the two countries and ensure coordination and communication between their militaries.

The two countries could discuss a mechanism under which troops from both sides will inform each other before carrying out any patrolling on the disputed areas along their border. The defense ministers will also attempt to resolve differences over setting up a hotline between the armies of the two countries, the report said.

According to the Indian army, the hotline should link its Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and his equivalent official in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). But Beijing has proposed the hotline link the deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command with the Indian DGMO.


© 2018 the Mint (New Delhi)

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