NEW DELHI: A delegation of senior Indian Army officials, led by Northern Command chief Lt-General D S Hooda, will be visiting China next week as part of the ongoing policy to step up bilateral military engagements and exchanges to boost confidence building measures (CBMs) along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The two sides are expected to further discuss practical measures for “managing” troop confrontations and strengthening de-escalatory mechanisms along the LAC. “The visit from December 14 to 19 is aimed at greater cooperation between the two forces in areas of mutual interest,” said an official.
“The delegation will exchange views on measures to usher in greater peace and tranquility along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh / Xingjiang province of China. It will interact and exchange views with senior PLA officers, as also visit various military and civil establishments in China including PLA headquarters at Beijing and Lanzhou military region,” he added.
Interestingly, it was in July 2010 that India had frozen all bilateral military exchanges after China denied a proper visa to the then Northern Army commander Lt-General B S Jaswal on the ground that he was commanding forces in the “disputed and sensitive” region of J&K.
There has been a thaw since then, with India and China slowly but steadily enhancing bilateral military exchanges and other CBMs like additional border personnel meeting points as well as holding their annual joint counter-terror exercise “Hand-in-Hand”.
But the border defence cooperation agreement (BDCA), inked between the two countries in October 2013, is yet to become fully operational on the ground to ensure troop face-offs are effectively defused and managed at the local level itself, as reported by TOI earlier.
Though there has been a slight decline, troop confrontations still continue to take place all along the LAC with eastern Ladakh being a major flashpoint in recent times. With both sides resorting to aggressive patrolling to lay claims to disputed areas, rival troops also continue to tail each other’s patrols, which was specifically prohibited by the BDCA. The proposed hotline between the top military hierarchy, like the DGMO-level one between India and Pakistan, is also yet to become a concrete reality.
The visit also comes at a time when China is undertaking a major restructuring of its 2.3 million-strong PLA to make it more combat-ready and mobile, which will see all armed forces come under a joint operational military command and regrouping of the existing seven military regions into four strategic zones, as reported by TOI earlier.
The Indian Eastern Army Command till now was faced by the Chinese Chengdu Military Region, while it was the Northern Command facing the Lanzhou Military Region in the north. Now, the entire Indian front from Ladakh to Arunachal will be handled by one Chinese entity, the new West Zone.