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Top Army officer to lead team to Beijing for talks

A top Indian military commander is set to lead a delegation to China next month for talks to improve ties and control differences that can cause conflict along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto un-demarcated boundary that runs all along the Himalayan ridgeline.

This is the first such high-level military visit to Beijing, since December 2015, when the then Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen DS Hooda, had led a delegation. Also, it’s the first high-level military delegation since the 73-day standoff in Sikkim in June-August last year. The Indian visit is being finalised for the middle of next month. Either the Eastern Army Commander or the Northern Army Commander shall lead the delegation, it is learnt. The move indicates a further thaw in India-China military relations that have been edgy, to say the least.

This will be a return visit to match the recent visit (July 2 to 6) by a 10-member Chinese delegation led by Lt Gen Liu Xiaowu, Deputy Commander of Western Theatre Command (that faces India). It discussed matters with Indian Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Devraj Anbu at New Delhi, and then met the military leadership at the Eastern Command and specifically visited the 33 Corps (that handles Sikkim) for talks.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Wuhan summit in April had asked the militaries to cooperate.

The two countries will be working to have military exchanges at the theatre level, border management and control and border defence cooperation. The next steps are a bilateral maritime dialogue and visit of Chinese Defence Minister Lt Gen Wei Fenghe to New Delhi.

The dates are being worked out. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and he have met twice in recent months. The Chinese Defence Minister has commanded the Second Artillery Corps, The maritime dialogue would be at the Joint Secretary-level, sources have confirmed; the last one was in 2016. This one comes after PM Modi made a keynote address on June 1 at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore focussed on the Indo- Pacific region.

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