India China firm up for a new bilateral defence agreement

India China firm up for a new bilateral defence agreement

NEW DELHI - After nearly a two-hour meeting, India and China on Thursday decided to work towards firming up a new bilateral agreement on defence cooperation and agreed to increase interactions between their militaries at multiple levels to avoid Doklam-like standoffs along the disputed border.

The focus of the meeting, between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart, was to build mutual trust between the two armies guarding the 3,500 km Sino-India border, officials said.

The two sides also decided on early operationalisation of the proposed hotline between the two armies as part of the confidence-building measures, the defence ministry said.

Sources said Sitharaman talked about security challenges India has been facing because of cross-border terrorism, its views on bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the need for ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. She also raised the issue of USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as she noted that it violates India's sovereignty.

The sources said the two sides primarily focused on implementing decisions taken at the Wuhan summit in April by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping which included enhancing strategic communication between the two armies. "It was decided to expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions. Both sides also decided to work towards a new bilateral MoU on defence exchanges and cooperation to replace the MoU signed in 2006," the defence ministry said in a statement.

It said Sitharaman and Wei deliberated on bilateral, regional and international issues in a "free, frank and constructive manner". "It was agreed to work towards full implementation of ongoing confidence building measures as well as greater interactions at the working level to ensure the maintenance of peace and tranquillity, including early operationalisation of the hotline between the relevant departments of their armed forces," the ministry said.