By Zhao Xiaozhuo and Wang Yu
The China-India military relationship, often referred to as the "wind vane" of China-India relations, is the most sensitive part of the two countries' bilateral ties. Border disputes such as "tent confrontation" and "Donglang event" have all plagued the development of bilateral relations. Since this year, the relationship between the two militaries has improved markedly with the rapid recovery of China-India relations. If the dragon and the elephant dance together, the two sides benefit.
On April 27th and 28th, Chinese President Xi Jinping held an informal meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi in the central China’s city of Wuhan. In early June, Modi visited China again and attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit 2018 in Qingdao, a coastal city in east China's Shandong Province.
The leaders of the two countries have conducted strategic exchanges on the major changes in the world today, and have exchanged in-depth views on the overall, long-term and strategic issues concerning the future development of China-India relations, which have played a strategic leading role in the development of relations between the two countries and their militaries. Friendly relations and win-win cooperation have become the mainstream of the relations between the two countries and their militaries.
From August 21st to 24th, Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe paid an official goodwill visit to India. During the visit, the important consensus reached by Chinese President Xi and Indian Prime Minister Modi were implemented. Both sides have deepened exchanges and cooperation in their military security fields, enhanced mutual strategic trust between the two militaries, marking the shadow of "Donglang event" cast over China-India military relations being discarded, and "mutual understanding" having become the basis for their military relations.
China and India are connected by common mountains and rivers, and the friendly exchanges between the two countries can date back to ancient times. The two oriental ancient civilizations have created amazingly glorious histories. India was one of the first countries to recognize the new China and to propose restoring China's legitimate seat in the United Nations (UN). China, India and Myanmar jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and achieved a pioneering work in the history of international relations.
At present, both China and India are at an important node of development: the socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and India has also set a goal of creating a "New India". China and India face similar tasks and have the common aspiration to strengthen bilateral cooperation. It is of great significance for the two countries and their militaries to strengthen strategic communication and build closer partnerships.
The foundation for a stable and sustainable development of China-India relations lies in mutual trust. The two countries should adhere to a positive, open and inclusive attitude, stick to the basic judgments of being each other's development opportunities but not threats, and promptly negotiate on major issues of mutual concern.
The two militaries have established an exchange visit mechanism for defense ministers, set up a hotline between the defense ministries for direct connection, strengthened communication between the defense departments and various levels of both militaries, and signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) on exchanges and cooperation in China-India defense affairs according to the development of the situation, all of which are favorable measures to further deepening mutual trust.
To promote the development of China-India military relations under the new situation, it is necessary to follow the historical trend and take a long-term perspective, rather than only focus on differences but neglect cooperation, or even disturb the development process of the two countries and the overall situation of bilateral relations.
The two militaries should further give full play to the role of the defense and security consultation mechanism and the meeting mechanism of the Ministry of National Defense Working Group, deepen the professional exchanges of the military services, continue to carry out joint training such as the "Hand in Hand" joint anti-terrorism training between the Chinese and Indian armies, strengthen exchanges and cooperation between ships, increase exchanges of young military officers, promote university, academic and public affairs exchanges, expand new areas of cooperation, and strengthen cooperation in multilateral frameworks such as the SCO.
Only by continuously deepening pragmatic cooperation in various fields can both sides deepen friendship and enhance strategic mutual trust, thus laying a solid foundation for the healthy and sustained development of the two countries' military relations.
Due to differences in history, culture, and society, China-India relations will inevitably encounter some waves. The biggest problem is the pending border issue between the two countries.
However, with the joint efforts of the two countries and their militaries, the two sides successively signed the Agreement on the Maintenance Peace and Tranquility along the of Line of Actual Control in the China-India Border Areas, the Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the China-India Border Areas and the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement, insisting on controlling differences through dialogue and properly handling border issues.
Looking forward to the future, the two sides should promote the establishment of a regular border meeting mechanism for the generals, open the border defense hotline of the adjacent military regions, carry out personnel exchanges between the adjacent theater commands and the corresponding services at all levels, strengthen exchanges between the front-line units, carry out exchange and training for border guards in the other's colleges and universities, and resolutely put an end to similar incidents as "Donglang event".
History shows that as long as China and India adhere to the principle of treating each other with sincerity, mutual respect and taking care of each other's concerns, strive to develop their cooperative willingness into a policy level, extend the consensus of both sides to an action level, and pass the upper-level decision to the front-line forces, as well as properly control their differences, the two militaries can promote the win-win cooperation, making their military relations serving as a positive factor for their stable bilateral ties.
Disclaimer: The authors are Zhao Xiaozhuo and Wang Yu respectively from the War Studies College of the Chinese PLA Academy of Military Sciences, and the Joint Service Academy of the Chinese PLA National Defense University. The article was published on the PLA Daily on Oct. 15. It is translated from Chinese into English and edited by China Military online.