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New India-China military hotline to become operational between DGMO and Western Theatre Command

A new military hotline between India and China which has been pending for a long time will soon become operational, Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Saturday. He explained that the proposal for the hotline has been accepted by both sides after all procedural issues were resolved.

Naravane shared the development during his first press conference after taking over as the Army Chief. “As far as the hotline between India and China is concerned, proposals have been in the pipeline for a long time,” he said.

“The proposal has been accepted and procedural aspects have been ironed out. I am glad to say that we have now resolved the issue. There would be a hotline now between our DGMO (read as Director General of Military Operations) and the Weestern Theatre Command (of China). That is very much now on the cards,” he added.

This hotline had faced several roadblocks in the past because of the differing views of both sides. The Indian Army had been maintaining that this hotline should be between its DGMO and his equivalent in the People’s Liberation Army. China, however, proposed that as the Western Theatre Command is responsible for the front with India, therefore its commander should engage with the Indian DGMO. It also felt that the DGMO would be aware of every issue in all sectors of the Line of Actual Control.

Both sides see hotlines as a necessity for better interaction between their armies and to defuse tensions caused by differing perceptions of the LAC.

India and China have also looked at setting up more hotlines between their armies. During the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe to India in August 2018, a year after the Doklam standoff, he had suggested to the then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on establishing two to three more military hotlines with India such as at the local command level. For example, between the Northern Army Command and its counterpart. China had also focussed on having more interactions at the unit and brigade levels.

Officials explained that what needs to be decided first for establishing such hotlines is how they will be implemented, because both the armies are based on different structures and formations having varied areas of responsibilities. India had asked China for a hotline between the Western Theatre Command and Indian Army’s commands that guard the LAC such as Northern, Central and Eastern. But, China felt that for this hotline to function its western theatre commander would have to talk to different army commanders and every commander may not be aware of matters that are happening in other commands.

China, on the other hand, had suggested that India’s army commanders should instead speak to the Tibet Military Division (TMD) commander. But this would be a downgrade for the army commanders. India in turn had suggested that the TMD commander should speak to the corps commander. China, however, said that the TMD has about three to four corps under it, so the Indian corps commander can talk to their corps commanders. But this would create a similar problem that came up during talks for having a hotline between the Western Theatre Command and army commands.

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