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45 Years Later
‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’ chant again
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
In a major sign of thawing of relations between India and China, the first-ever joint exercises between the armies of the two countries, codenamed “Hand in Hand”, will start from tomorrow in a hilly terrain in Kunming in the Yunnan province of China.

(A PTI report from Nathu La said Indian and Chinese troops exchanged pleasantries before visiting mediapersons on Sunday.

(Chinese officials and soldiers chanted “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai” and shook hands with the journalists but refused to answer questions.

(Some Chinese Army officials came to know from their Indian counterparts the reasons behind the bristling activities at the Nathu La frontier post.

(It was bonhomie all through after the Indian Air Force’s special transport aircraft IL-76 touched down at the airport.

(The Chinese People’s Liberation Army played the band followed by a ceremonial welcome later at the Kuniming Military Academy where the 103 Indian soldiers will stay.)

The five-day exercises, which were to be held earlier this year in November, were delayed as the military officials from the two countries took some time working out the finer details of the exercises.

According to officials of the ministry of defence (MoD), company level troops from both armies would take part in the anti-terror war games, which would also be a major step forward in the further improvement of relations and ending of mistrust between the two neighbouring countries.

The Indian contingent consists of nine officers led by Brig D.D. Dadwal and 86 jawans. One armed reconnaissance company of the PLA would participate from the China side.

The countries had signed an MoU in 2006 that specified the “desire” to conduct joint military exercises in the fields of search and rescue, anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and other areas of mutual interest.

However, the first training exercise was firmed up during former Army Chief General J.J. Singh’s visit to China in May this year. The venue and dates for the December exercise were finalised in Beijing earlier in November at the first-ever Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) between India and China.

The dialogue focused on improving the border post meeting mechanism and the countries finalised plans to exchange military personnel for training purposes.

The ADD is a component of the MoU signed during then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to China last year. The MoU was seen as a major step forward in improving the India-China ties that had remained frosty since the two countries fought a bitter border war in 1962.

Incidentally, there is also a talk of making the exercises an annual affair. Defence ministry sources said the next round of anti-terror manoeuvres were expected to take place in India next year.

The two teams would be led by a company commander. However, the key to the exercise will not be the actual players but the senior officers of the two armies, who would be watching the exercises from sidelines and would use the opportunity to gauze operational methods and capabilities of the other side.

The idea is also to improve inter-operating between the two armies. This, the officials said, was important in case the two sides end up taking on terrorists together in the future.

Incidentally, as is the case in the first round always, the two sides are not expected to divulge more than cosmetic details of their operational capabilities.

Officials said “sports exchanges” between the countries would also take place as part of an annual defence exchange programme. Besides, India and China, who share a common legacy of Russian aircraft in their air forces, would also share expertise on flight safety issues.

While the interaction between the armies of the two nations has till now been limited to the observer status in each other’s exercises, several low-level bilateral naval exercises had taken place since 2003.

An advanced five-day exercise, involving two front line destroyers of the Indian Navy, was conducted in April this year at the Qingdao port, the headquarters of the Chinese Navy’s North Sea fleet.

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