New Delhi : The first military exercise between the Indian and Chinese armies that was to have been held next month has been delayed since the two countries have not been able to decide on the dates, officials say.
The exercise was to have been held in China with the participation of about 100 soldiers from each side. It was to have been the precursor of larger war games in the coming years.
Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony is on record as saying that the war game would be conducted in November.
“The process of dialogue has yet to take place to work out the parameters of the training,” a visiting Chinese official said, requesting anonymity since he was not supposed to speak to the media. “Once the dialogue takes place and an understanding is reached, it will take us six weeks to plan the training,” he added.
Significantly, he used the word “training” and not “exercise”, “joint drill” or “war game” for the event.
An Indian official, however, pointed out that this dialogue had begun when the then Indian Army chief, Gen. J.J. Singh visited Beijing in May.
“We had invited a delegation to New Delhi to continue the process but this has not happened,” he maintained.
The exercise was to be themed on an “anti-terror scenario in a mountainous region”. China’s mountainous Chengdu military region was mentioned as a possible venue for the event.
While neither side is publicly saying so, China is believed to be contending that the dialogue be conducted at the defence minister’s level.
“The mechanism for the annual defence dialogue (ADD) is in place. Eventually it will be conducted at the defence minister’s level, but it will take time to rise to that level,” the Indian official explained.
The ADD is a component of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed during then Indian defence minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to China last year, during which he also toured a number of military establishments in the country.
The MoU was seen as a major step forward in improving India-China ties that had remained frosty since the two countries fought a bitter border war in 1962.
The thaw began in the mid-1980s and the two countries have made considerable progress since then with the two countries putting the border issue on the backburner as they move forward in the economic, political and cultural spheres.
The war games were expected to bring the military sector within the ambit of the improving ties.