India, China may conduct joint army drillsz


New Delhi : Indicative of the growing warming up of India-China relations, the armies of the two countries could conduct their first joint exercise later this year, a defence ministry official said.

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The joint drills will, in fact, top the agenda during Indian Army chief Gen. J.J. Singh's week-long visit to China that began Monday.

"I will propose the holding of such exercises. The Chinese have, in principle, agreed to this. The details need to be worked out," Singh had said here last week on the sidelines of a defence seminar.

During Singh's visit, the two sides are likely to take a decision on whether the joint drill should be held in India or China, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For some years now, Chinese military officials posted in New Delhi have been invited as observers to exercises conducted by the Indian Army. The only hitch to conducting joint exercises has been the language.

Many officers and soldiers of the 2.5 million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA) speak fluent Hindi but the reverse was not the case. This gap has now narrowed considerably.

Singh's visit comes almost a year after then Indian defence minister Pranab Mukherjee undertook a path breaking visit to Beijing and to Chinese military establishments during which the two countries agreed to ramp up their defence ties.

India and China had fought a bitter border war in 1962 and their relations remained frosty for a long time.

However, a series of measures initiated in the mid-1980s by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi have seen military confidence-building measures being put in place to maintain "peace and tranquillity" along the 4,057 km Line of Actual Control (LAC).

These include biannual meetings of Indian and Chinese commanders at four points along the LAC.

The two countries have also evolved a mechanism for their special representatives to hold periodic meetings in India and China in a bid to resolve the border issue.

However, irritants still remain as was evidenced by a statement last November by the Chinese envoy here, Sun Yuxi, that the entire northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh belonged to China.