Defense minister's India visit expected to build trust

China Daily
Huang Panyue
Indian President Narenda Modi shakes hands with China's State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe on Aug 21, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe's visit to India signals a recovery in military-to-military relations and will strengthen mutual trust and communication, promote military cooperation and facilitate regional peace and security along the two countries' shared border, experts said.

Wei arrived in India on Tuesday on a four-day goodwill visit, during which the two sides will exchange opinions on issues of common concern, the Ministry of National Defense said in an online statement on Monday night. These issues include resolving border tensions and enhancing trust and communication.

Wei is the first Chinese defense minister to visit India in six years. It is also the highest-level visit by a Chinese military official since the border standoff between the two militaries in China's Donglang area, in the Tibet autonomous region, last year.

The ministry said both militaries are actively fulfilling the consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their informal meeting in Wuhan, Hubei province, in April.

The two militaries will allow their coordination to play its role in boosting closer partnership between the two countries, it said.

Li Li, a professor at Tsinghua University's Institute of International Relations, said Wei's visit to India will be significant in promoting mutual trust and border peace between the two militaries. "Despite the Donglang standoff last year, the long Sino-Indian border has been mostly peaceful for the last few decades thanks to various communication and risk-control mechanisms," she said.

The consensus on properly managing risks and differences while continuing cooperation in various fields "is the reason behind the positive momentum for overall Sino-Indian bilateral relations", Li said.

If China and India can finally create a hotline between the two militaries, which has been in the pipeline for some time, "it will further improve communication, reduce misunderstandings and misjudgments, and prevent border conflicts," she added.

Ma Jiali, an expert on Sino-Indian affairs and a director at China Reform Forum, said the positive development in Sino-Indian military relations and overall ties will continue, and the two countries will also likely resume their seventh "Hand-in-Hand" joint military exercises later this year.

The exercises began in 2007 and were halted last year due to the standoff. "If held as scheduled, the latest joint exercises will take place in China," Ma said. "This will send a powerful signal to the world that Sino-Indian military ties are healthy."


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