India, China to resume annual military exercise in December

India China flags Representational image | AP

India and China have agreed to resume the joint military exercise, Hand-in-Hand, which was suspended after the Doklam face-off. In sync with the renewed efforts by both countries to reset ties, the military exercise will take place in the second week of December in Kunming, China. The annual military war games was suspended after the 73 day-stand-off between the militaries of both countries.

The objective of the joint military exercise is to make acquaintance with the operating procedures of both the Armies in the backdrop of a counter-terrorism environment.

The last episode of 'Hand-in-Hand' joint military exercise happened in 2016 in Pune's Aundh Military Camp. The first edition of the exercise was held in Kunming, China in 2007. The bilateral military-exercise has been suspended earlier as well between 2009 and 2013 after the controversy over denying visa to the northern Army Commander Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal by China citing its "sensitivities" over Kashmir.

Relation between New Delhi and Beijing has taken a steady improvement after the Wuhan informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in April, as it played an important role in breaking the ice between the two countries after the stand-off in Doklam plateau. PM Modi's speech in Shangri La Dialogue, after the Wuhan Summit, indicated New Delhi's changed approach towards Beijing. India has also decided to re-engage with China on maritime dialogue. The last time India held a maritime dialogue with China was in 2016.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, after her visit to Beijing in April, had said that “we are talking and we are meeting each other. This is the big change”.

In August, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe visited New Delhi and discussed multiple issues to strengthen the relationship. During Fenghe's visit, the two countries agreed to work on setting up additional Border Personnel Meeting Points (BPM) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There are five BPM points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Bum La and Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul in Ladakh and Nathu La in Sikkim. In fact, China suggested joint patrolling on the LAC.

The long pending proposal to set up the hotline between the two militaries to prevent flare-ups along their disputed border was also being revived by both sides. But the issue is stuck due to protocol issues as the Indian Army wants to establish the hotline between its Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and its equivalent official in Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). But, PLA does not have a DGMO post. Beijing has proposed that the deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command would engage with the Indian DGMO.

In July, General Liu Xiaowu, deputy commander of the Western Theater Command, made a visit to New Delhi and in a reciprocal visit General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army visited China in August.