Ending a five-year hiatus,India and China on Tuesday began a joint anti-terrorism military exercise in southwestern Sichuan province less than a fortnight after the two countries inked a comprehensive pact to avert recurring border stand-offs.
Both sides have deployed about 150 soldiers each in the 10-day exercise,code-named “Hand-in-Hand 2013”,aimed at enhancing counter terrorism skills which began at Miaoergang,south of the Chinese city of Chengdu.
Personnel from the Indian Army’s 16 Sikh Light Infantry and similar strength of PLA’s 1st Battalion Infantry Division of 13 Group are taking part in the drills,the third such exercise between the two armies since 2007.
During the opening ceremony,the Chinese side gave an “enthralling display” of Chinese martial art kungfu followed by “breathtaking” Punjabi Gatka martial art by the Indian. The two sides also displayed their weapons which generated keen interest to familiarise and understand the characteristics of each other,an Indian defence press release said.
Declaring open the exercise along with Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia leader of Indian Army observer group,the head of the Chinese team Lt Gen Yung Jinshan of the PLA said terrorism is a global challenge and China and India faced similar threats in an apparent reference to the suicide attack at the historic Tiananmen Square on October 28 in which five people were killed and 40 others injured.
This exercise is designed to consolidate and exchange tactical skills as well as enhance mutual understanding and trust,Yung said.
In his address,Lt Gen Bhatia said the exercise is a perfect beginning for renewed bilateral cooperation and friendship.
“We intend learning best practices of each other which would be mutually beneficial for both the armies,” he said.
During the exercise,Indian and Chinese soldiers will conduct drills in tactical hand signals,arrest and escort,hostage rescue and joint attack,as well as comprehensive anti-terror combat manoeuvres,official media reported.
A Chinese military observer and deputy commander of the Chengdu Military Area Command told state-run Xinhua news agency that the exercise is intended to exchange anti-terror experiences,enhance mutual understanding and trust,and boost cooperation between the two armies.
Commenting on the drill,Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said,”Since the beginning of this year China-India relations have scored new progress. Bilateral cooperation in the field of military has achieved in-depth development. Relevant military drill shows the enhanced political mutual trust between our two countries. We wish the drill a success.”
China and India conducted their first annual anti-terror joint exercise in southwest China’s Yunnan Province in 2007 followed by another round in 2008 in Karnataka.
The next round was called off by India following the denial of visa by China to a top Indian General heading troops in Jammu and Kashmir on the grounds that the region formed part of disputed territory.
The two sides resumed contacts after China rescinded its decision and began issuing regular visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir,a move that facilitated a broad engagement between the two giant neighbours.
However border tensions flared up when Chinese troops pitched tents deep inside the Indian side of Line of Actual Control (LAC) in April this year.
It was resolved subsequently ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Delhi in May followed by return visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here last month.
During Singh’s visit,the two countries signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) which both sides believe will effectively address a host of issues causing tension at the disputed border.