Chinese Defence Minister arrives on Tuesday; focus on boosting strategic communication between armies


Chinese Defence Minister and State councillor Wei Fenghe

Chinese Defence Minister and State councillor Wei Fenghe, File AP Photo

Chinese Defence Minister and State councillor Wei Fenghe will arrive here on Tuesday on a four-day visit during which the two sides are expected to explore specific measures to build trust between their armies, guarding the nearly 3,500 km Sino-India border, official sources said.

They said the primary objective of Wei’s visit is to deliberate with Indian defence establishment on implementation of decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their informal summit in Wuhan in April.

In the summit Modi and Xi resolved to open a new chapter in ties and directed their militaries to boost coordination along the border, months after the most serious military faceoff in decades between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in Doklam triggered fears of a war.

The sources said both sides will discuss implementation of decisions taken during the Wuhan summit which were aimed at improving mutual trust and avoid repeat of any Doklam-like face-offs.

Wei, who is a key member in China’s State Council — the executive organ of China’s central government — is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Modi and hold restricted as well as delegation-level talks with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, on Wednesday.

The Chinese defence minister is also likely to visit an Indian military establishment during his trip.

In the delegation level talks, both sides are expected to deliberate on situation along the Doklam plateau and the Indian side may also raise the issue of presence of sizeable number of Chinese troops in North Doklam.

Doklam, in the Sikkim sector, is a strategically important area which is claimed by Bhutan. India has been acting as security guarantor to the tiny country in the sensitive region.

“A range of issues and options will be deliberated upon at the talks which will be in sync with what the leadership of the two countries had agreed to in the Wuhan summit,” said a source in the military establishment here.

The two sides are likely to deliberate on a mechanism under which troops from both sides will inform each other before carrying out any patrolling on the disputed areas along the nearly 4,000-km border.

The sources said both sides will also attempt to resolve differences in setting up of a hotline between the armies of the two countries.

After the Wuhan summit, both sides revived the long-pending proposal to set up the hotline so as to avoid flare-ups along the disputed border. But, the initiative hit roadblocks over differences on issues relating to protocol and technical aspect of the hotline.

The Indian Army has been maintaining that the hotline should be between its Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and his equivalent official in Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). However, Beijing proposed that the deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command would engage with the Indian DGMO.

The Indian Army is opposed to the Chinese proposal, insisting that an officer equivalent to Indian DGMO at PLA’s headquarters should be deputed for the communication through the hotline.

Currently, India and Pakistan have a hotline between their DGMOs.The hotline between India and China was first mooted by the two countries in 2013.

An eight-member Chinese military delegation led by Lt Gen Liu Xiaowu, Deputy Commander of Western Theatre Command, visited India in June as a follow-up to the Wuhan summit.