NEW DELHI — The first visit here in eight years by a Chinese defense minister has led to the two sides agreeing to resume joint military exercises after a gap of four years.
The sides, led by Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie and Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, agreed to resume the military exercises at the earliest, said an Indian Defence Ministry official.
“India and China today reached consensus on a wide range of issues relating to defense and military exchanges and cooperation to be conducted this year and beyond,” said a Defence Ministry statement Sept. 4.
Last year, India and China discussed the establishment of a mechanism to resolve a boundary dispute. The two countries have held several rounds of talks at the diplomatic level to resolve the long-pending dispute over which they fought a brief battle in 1962.
However, ahead of the visit of the Chinese defense minister, New Delhi asked Beijing to stop infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“The government is aware of the infrastructure development by China at the border and their [Chinese] undertaking infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [PoK]. The government has conveyed its concerns to China about its activities in PoK and asked them to cease such activities,” Antony wrote to the Indian Parliament on Sept. 3.
In October, former Indian Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh warned that 4,000 Chinese troops are in Pakistani Kashmir. “There are certain construction working teams; a large number are available. Around 3,000 to 4,000 of these people are present, including certain people for security purposes. There are certain engineer troops.”
Early this year, media reports quoting a Washington-based think tank said Pakistan is considering a Chinese proposal to lease parts of the region of Gilgit-Baltistan in POK for 50 years.
The move by Islamabad is aimed at fortifying its strategic relations with China amid a rupture in U.S.-Pakistan relations, according to the report by Middle-East Media Research Institute.
India and China signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006 to hold joint military exercises.
The countries in June 2011 resumed military exchanges, which had been halted in July 2010 after Beijing refused to provide a visa to a top Indian commander intending to visit China.
The dispute between India and China involves the longest contested boundary in the world. China claims 92,000 square kilometers of Indian territory.
The border between India and China is currently defined by a 4,056-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is neither marked on the ground nor on mutually acceptable maps. Efforts to have a recognized LAC have been made since the mid-1980s, but with little progress.
The two countries have been building up their defense forces in light of perceived future threats in the region. The official release said the two sides agreed to increase mutual trust.
“The two defence ministers agreed to work together to enhance mutual trust in the security field and continue to maintain peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas. They noted that the leaders of India and China have designated 2012 as the year of India-China friendship and cooperation,” said the official release.