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A year after Doklam standoff, India-China to conduct ‘Hand-in-Hand’ exercises again

As part of military diplomacy and interaction between the armies of India and China, troops from both sides will be engaged in a joint military exercise that will involve tactical level operations in an international counter insurgency environment. Troops from the Indian side have been selected from 11 SIKHLI of Indian Army while troops from a unit of Tibetan military district will be taking part. According an official statement from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Thursday, the annual Exercise Hand-in-Hand will be from Dec 11-23 at Chengdu in China.

“The aim of the exercise is to build and promote close relations between armies of both the countries and to enhance the ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command,” said the release. “The exercise will involve tactical level operations in an international counter insurgency and counter terrorist environment under UN mandate,” it added.

The last time the two armies had the joint exercise was in 2016, in Pune, but due to tensions between the two sides over Doklam due to standoff between the armies for more than 70 days, the armies skipped the `Hand-in-Hand’ exercise in 2017. The Doklam sector is a strategically important area which is claimed by Bhutan.

Post Doklam, both countries have been working to increase cooperation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year which has been subsequently followed by four more meetings in recent months. In fact the two leaders met four times on the sidelines of the recently concluded the G-20 summit in Argentina.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe had visited New Delhi and in his meetings with the defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman as well senior military officials, it was decided that both sides will work on a bilateral pact on defence cooperation and also agreed to increase military to military interactions in an effort to eliminate Doklam like standoffs in the future.

While admitting that the relations between the two countries had taken a hit after the Doklam standoff, the army chief Bipin Rawat earlier this year had hinted that the annual India-China military exercise will resume soon.

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