India and China are holding talks to set up a hotline between their defence ministries and update a 12-year-old defence agreement as part of the confidence-building measures, a top Chinese defence ministry official said on Thursday. During Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi last week, the two sides held in-depth discussions on how to further implement the important consensus reached between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, defence ministry spokesman Colonel Wu Qian said.
Modi and Xi, during their informal summit in Wuhan in April, reached a consensus on managing various aspects of India-China relations, including the two militaries, especially in the backdrop of the Doklam standoff. The hotline between the two militaries was regarded as a major confidence-building measure, as it would enable both the headquarters to intensify communication to avert tensions between border patrols and to avoid standoffs such as Doklam.
Wu said both the countries are also in consultations to work on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the defence ministries. “In 2006, India and China signed a MoU on defence exchanges and cooperation. The Indian side conveyed its willingness to sign a new version of the MoU. China holds a positive attitude towards it and the two sides are in communication with each other,” he said.
The 2006 MoU focussed on maintaining frequent exchanges between the leaders and high-level functionaries of the defence ministries, annual defence dialogue and holding joint military exchanges among others. “If the dragon and elephant dance together, they will both gain and it will help Asia continue to be prosperous. If they compete and fight with each other, it will benefit neither but others,” Wu said.
“We are willing to work with India to actively implement the consensus of the two heads of state, strengthen communication and coordination, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, properly manage differences and promote the healthy and stable development of relations between the two militaries,” said Wu, adding that an invitation was extended to Sitharaman to visit China.
Wei’s talks with the Indian leaders focussed on “how to deepen security and military exchanges and cooperation and how to strengthen defence confidence building measures,” Wu said. “They specifically talked about setting up an exchange mechanism for visits between the two defence ministries, set up a direct confidential phone line between the two defence ministries, strengthening exchanges at all levels including defence authorities, theatre commands and different services,” he said.
“They also talked about setting up a hotline on border issues between adjacent military commands,” said Wu. The discussions between the two sides include a direct phone line between the two defence ministries and regional military units, he said.