Indicating that the military stand-off with China in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh sector in April was a thing of the past, India on Monday announced that Union Defence Minister A K Antony will visit China later this year as part of the efforts to further enhance the bilateral ties.
The official announcement coincided with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s ongoing visit to the country. Li had earlier in the day met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which also witnessed the signing of eight crucial pacts on bilateral cooperation . Besides, the two leaders agreed on the need to settle the Sino-Indian border row at the earliest.
New Delhi’s Ambassador to Beijing S Jaishankar told reporters here that Antony will be among the top Indian government functionaries scheduled to visit the Communist nation later this year. Other key visits will be those of Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon.
“On the bilateral side, we ( the Centre) are looking at Union Defence Minister (Antony) going to China soon. We have had some amount of discussion on more defence cooperation and defence exchanges, apart from maritime security,” the envoy said. On the occasion of Li’s visit, the two nations also issued a joint statement, in which the two sides agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation on maritime security, search and rescue at sea, oceanic scientific research and environment protection.
They also agreed to “work together to tackle increasingly outstanding non-traditional security threats, and strengthen cooperation on Naval escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Coast of Somalia, earnestly safeguarding the security of international sea-lanes and freedom of navigation.”
The two sides noted that “enhanced interaction in the military field was conducive to building mutual trust and confidence.” Both sides also agreed to “hold the next round of joint training exercises later this year.”
They also decided to increase exchanges between the Armies, Navies and the Air Force. India and China had last month finalised plans for their third joint Army exercise, that will be held at Kunming in Southern China in the second half of this year.
Codenamed ‘Hand-in-Hand’, it will focus on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.