In a move aimed to help take forward the Wuhan consensus reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, India and China - in a significant engagement - agreed to boost interaction between their armed forces and operationalise a hotline to step up strategic communication and prevent conflicts.
A year after the tense military standoff between the two Asian giants in Bhutan’s Doklam region, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe paid a visit to India, that was described by Chinese media as “historic”. Wei called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday after beginning his four-day visit, during which defence and strategic cooperation issues were discussed.
Wei, who is also a general in the People’s Liberation Army, told Modi that friendly cooperation, and not confrontation, has become the main component of China and India’s inter-military relations.
“This visit … will deepen our bilateral military exchanges and cooperation on security, enhance mutual trust and push forward the new development of our military ties to protect peace on the border,” Wei said.
Modi praised the “thousands of years of friendship” between India and China, saying his previous meetings with Xi had resulted in good relations. He appreciated the increased momentum of high-level contacts between India and China and said the relations between the two countries were a factor of stability in the world.
During his meeting with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, both ministers focused on stepping up strategic communication between their armies. It was significant to see the study in contrast between the defence ministers heading two of the world's largest military forces - one a five-star uniformed general and other a saffron sari-clad woman with no previous military experience.
The two countries decided to expand “the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions”, according to a statement from the Indian defence ministry.
During their “informal” summit in Wuhan in April, Modi and Xi had agreed to improve strategic communication in a bid to ensure that another faceoff like the Doklam standoff does not recur.
Between June and August last year, hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a 73-day military standoff in Doklam, which China calls Donglang, on the trijunction of China, Bhutan and India, after India strongly objected to China’s construction of a strategic road there.