Second leg of historic India-China military exercise gets underway

By Sahil Makkar, IANS,

Belgaum (Karnataka) : Southeast Asia’s two biggest economies – India and China, who fought a fierce border war in 1962 – Saturday launched the second leg of their historic joint military exercise that is primarily
focused on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

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Though it is the second military exercise between the two neighbouring nations, they are being held for the first time on Indian soil.

The first army exercise was held in the Chinese city of Kunming in December 2007 following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in May 2006 during a visit by the then defence minister (and current external affairs minister) Pranab Mukherjee to China.

Nearly 130 Chinese personnel, including 40 officers, from the first company of the infantry battalion of Chengdu Military Area Command and soldiers from the Eight Maratha Light Infantry Battalion of the Indian Army are holding eight-day joint exercises termed as ‘Ex Hand-in-Hand 2008′ in three phases at the Belgaum military command.

On the first day, both sides held a weapon and equipment display. The Chinese army showed weapons like snippier rifle, 9 mm pistol, rocket launcher and other regular weaponry, while Indian soldiers displayed AK-47 assault rifle, grenade launchers used in the counter-terrorism and anti-insurgencies operation.

This was followed by a special martial arts display by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. The Indian side displayed the traditional gymnastic exercise of malkhamb and kalari payattu, Kerala’s traditional martial art, to their counterparts.

Senior officers of each of the two sides were impressed with martial arts performed by the others side.

Later, the Indian side gave verbal lessons to their Chinese counterparts about counter-terrorism tactics, followed by three mock drills. Some Chinese soldiers took down notes with the help of translators.

Throughout the exercise, soldiers from both sides are expected to undergo joint tactical manoeuvres and drills, inter-operability training and joint command post procedures, culminating in a joint counter-terrorist
operational exercise against simulated enemies.

“The primary objective is to acquaint both the armies with each other’s operating procedures and thus ensuring better compatibility among the two armies,” said Brigadier S.K. Patyal of the Indian army.

“We would like to gain and share the expertise and practical knowledge of your (China) work ethics in various environments and try to infuse the same in our training programme. It is a compliment to be associated and train with the best in the world,” Patyal noted at the opening ceremony.

Major General V.K. Narula of the Indian Army said this exercise was very similar to what they had in December last year.

“In this exercise we will try to remove the communication barriers that largely occurred during the first leg of the military exercises between the two countries. We are thinking of using the universally accepted sign language to remove the problem of communication,” he said.

Narula clarified that the current exercise had nothing to do with war combat and no special weapons were being used by either side. The counter-terrorism is not targeted at any third party, he added.

“The exercise is for fighting terrorism and small weapons required in countering tactical insurgency are being used. We assure everyone that no secrets are being shared with the Chinese army,” he said.

Qin Xiang You, Chinese senior colonel (equivalent to the rank of brigadier in the Indian Army) in charge of his country’s soldiers participating in the sessions, said the joint training was aimed at promoting the two armies’
mutual understanding and trust.

Colonel Huang Xue Ping answered questions on counter- terrorism.

However, both sides refrained from commenting on the Nov 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 172 people.

“We see terrorism as a danger to countries around the world. That calls for joint efforts from all countries and also for joint training in counter-terrorism,” Huang said.

“We have always emphasised that counter-terrorism should not be targeted at any particular religion or any ethnic group. We should have a convincing proof before we take action against them,” he added.

Huang said China had so far performed joint military exercises with 10 nations.