China and India count down to joint military drill

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China and India will launch a two-week joint military drill on Tuesday, the first exercise of its kind since the two Asian giants were locked in a tense border stand-off in the Himalayas 18 months ago. Analysts said the drill could help rebuild trust between the two countries’ militaries, but would not erase mutual suspicions. Dubbed “Hand in Hand”, the exercise will take place in Chengdu, Sichuan province, neighbouring Tibet, where the two countries have had competing border interests for decades. The exercise has been held each year since 2013 but was called off last year in the aftermath of the two-month-long stand-off.

It is designed to build trust between the armed forces and bolster joint efforts against terrorism, and follows a warming in India-China relations. On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina late last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed that there had been a “perceptible improvement” in bilateral ties since they met in April. In addition, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit India later this month to launch a forum for high-level exchanges between China and India. But there is still various sources of friction, including a growing maritime rivalry.

Long Xingchun, a visiting scholar and Southeast Asian affairs specialist at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the military exchanges would not resolve mistrust but could help prevent differences from escalating into another conflict. “China’s reluctance to allow India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and refusal to agree on a US ban to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist have upset India,” Long said, referring to the founder and leader of Jaish e-Mohammed, designated by the United Nations as a terrorist group and active mainly in Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir.

 

By Kristin Huang

(Korea Times)

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