Chinese Def Minister’s India visit; both sides to attempt resolving issues for setting up of hotline


Representational Image, India-China

Representational Image, India-China

India and China will attempt to resolve differences in setting up of a hotline soon between the armies of the two countries, during Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe’s upcoming visit here, official sources said.

After the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, both sides revived the long-pending proposal to set up the hotline so as to avoid flare-ups between the two militaries along their disputed border.

But, the initiative hit a roadblock over differences between the two sides on issues relating to protocol and technical aspect of the hotline.

China’s State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe is scheduled to visit India later this month.

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

It is learnt that Chinese PLA has also conveyed to Indian Army that they do not have any DGMO in its headquarters and that it was favouring engaging the Western Theatre Command which looks after the Sino-India border.

However, the Indian side feels the protocol must be maintained and equating the Indian Army headquarters to PLA’s Western Theatre Command in Chengdu was not proper.

Three commands of the Indian Army — the Kolkata-based eastern command, the central command headquartered at Lucknow and the northern command, headquartered at Udhampur — have been tasked to keep an eye on the nearly 3,500-km-long border with China.

Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam in Sikkim sector last year which was the most serious military confrontation between the two sides in decades.

At the two-day Wuhan summit in April, Modi and Xi decided to issue “strategic guidance” to their militaries to strengthen communications and build trust. The move was seen as aimed at avoiding a Doklam-like standoff between the two militaries.

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 between Modi and Xi.

On the proposed hotline, the official sources said there were certain issues relating to engaging translators for Mandarin and English by the two sides. Both sides will also have to sort out issues relating to technical aspect of the hotline as well.

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.

The sources said a host of other issues like ways to improve coordination between the two militaries along the border will figured in talks Fenghe will have with his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman and others. PTI