Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to maintain a peaceful border as the militaries of the two countries continue to work to repair their relationship.
Wei, who is also a general in the People’s Liberation Army, told Modi during a visit to New Delhi that friendly cooperation had become the main component of China and India’s inter-military relations, the Chinese defence ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.
It was the first visit by a Chinese military leader since last year’s stand-off on the Himalayan border between the two countries.
“This visit … will deepen our bilateral military exchanges and cooperation on security, enhance mutual trust and push forward the new development of our military ties to protect peace on the border,” Wei said.
Modi praised the “thousands of years of friendship” between India and China, saying his previous meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping had resulted in good relations.
Wei will also meet Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, to further discuss security and stability on the border, the statement said.
Between June and August last year, hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a months-long military confrontation in Doklam, an area claimed by both China and India’s ally Bhutan, as India strongly objected to China’s construction of a road there.
It was the most serious confrontation between the two countries since the Sino-India border war in 1962, igniting fears of another military conflict between the world’s two most populous nations.
After 73 days and lots of backstage negotiations the two sides agreed to withdraw their soldiers from the front line.
But the Chinese army engineers later carried on construction on the Doklam plateau, and in addition to new roads, had built some new infrastructure including sentry posts, trenches and helipads near the site, Sitharaman said earlier this year.
Wei’s meeting with Sitharaman would focus on managing potential crises in the future, and looking for ways to improve stability on the border, said Sun Shihai, expert on South Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“There has been a long-existing deficit of trust between the two militaries,” he said. “A direct contact between two military leaders could greatly improve the situation on the front line and reduce border-crossings and confrontations, which have been numerous over the years.”
The distrust has led to India’s concerns over Chinese construction in the Himalayas. The fear is that Chinese troops from this high ground would be able to threaten Indian military positions in the Siliguri corridor, also known as the fragile “Chicken’s Neck” of India which connects its northeastern states with the rest of the country.
The two countries have been trying to repair ties since last year’s incident and relations have continued to improve. Modi has been to China three times over the past year, attending summits in Xiamen and Qingdao, as well as unofficially meeting with Xi in Wuhan.
They are expected to meet again in Argentina on the Apec sidelines later this year.
“The top leaders have reached consensus not to have a similar incident hurt ties again,” Sun said.
“So the two defence ministers will probably discuss programmes such as joint exercises, personnel training exchanges, or just friendly get-together events between the border troops.”
This article China and India promise to keep peace on their border after last year’s Doklam stand-off first appeared on South China Morning Post