Chinese defence minister arrives in India for 4-day visit

India China flags Representational image | AP

With an aim to improve bilateral relations, especially on military ties, Chinese Defence Minister Lieutenant General Wei Fenghe has landed in New Delhi for a four-day visit. Lt Gen Fenghe's visit is the first top official visit of the Chinese government since the Doklam stand off.

Lt Gen Fenghe's full fledged bilateral visit is targeted to further strengthen the relations between the two countries, which has taken a steady improvement after the Wuhan informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.

Wuhan Summit played an important role to break the ice between the two militaries, who were engaged in 78 days of stand off in Doklam plateau. In the recent past, sincere efforts are being taken by both sides to improve bilateral ties. After Wuhan, PM Modi's speech in Shangri La dialogue, indicated New Delhi's changed approach towards Beijing. India has now decided to re-engage with China on maritime dialogue. The last time India held a maritime dialogue with China was in 2016.

Though the delegation level talk between Fenghe and Nirmala Sitharaman will happen on Thursday, the Chinese defence minister will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening to convey the message from his government. Delegation level talks have been rescheduled for Thursday after the announcement of Eid holiday on Wednesday.

In a major confidence building measure, both sides are expected to revive the long-pending proposal to set up a hotline between the two militaries to prevent flare-ups along the disputed border. The issue is stuck due to protocol issues, as the Indian Army wants the hotline to be between its Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and his equivalent official in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Since the PLA does not have DGMO post, Beijing has proposed that deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command would engage with the Indian DGMO.

"We can expect a breakthrough on the issue of setting up hotline. Moreover, sincere efforts are on to have two more Border Personnel Meeting (BMP) at Uttarkhand and Ladakh to diffuse tension between the two armies," a defence ministry official anticipates the outcome of the scheduled delegation level talk between the two defence ministers on Thursday. This will be their second meeting this year as Nirmala Sitharaman met Fenghe in April in Beijing during the defence ministers' meet of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

In July, General Liu Xiaowu, deputy commander of the Western Theater Command made a visit to New Delhi and in a reciprocal visit of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Lt Gen Abhay Krishna's visit to China.

India had snapped all its military ties with China after Beijing refused to give visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal in 2010 by saying that he 'controlled' a disputed area, Jammu and Kashmir.