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India, China to boost defence ties; Antony to visit Beijing

New Delhi: India and China today decided to resume bilateral military exercises stalled in 2010 as part of efforts to boost defence ties and build confidence between the two neighbours.

Defence Minister A K Antony who joined his Chinese counterpart Gen Liang Guanglie at the delegation-level talks, accepted the invitation to visit Beijing next year.

During the 90-minute talks, the two sides also agreed upon high-level official exchanges, training of armed forces personnel at each other's facilities and maritime security cooperation between the two Navies.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie shakes hands with Indian Defense Minister AK Antony in New Delhi. AP

Gen Liang is the first Chinese Defence Minister to visit India in eight years. The last visit by an Indian Defence Minister to China was in 2006.

Terming the delegation-level talks as "very fruitful", Antony said, "We have decided that (to resume Army-to-Army exercises) and I have also accepted the invitation by him to visit China sometime next year as per mutual convenience. He said that during the talks, the two sides held discussions about "improving relations at the border areas and the situation in the South Asia and Asia Pacific region".

The two sides are understood to have discussed the American plans to shift bulk of its Navy to the Asia Pacific region and the presence of Chinese troops in the Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) region.

The Chinese Defence Minister said the two countries have "reached consensus for cooperation" and reviewed the progress made by the two sides.

"We reached consensus for cooperation between the sides in various fields including exchange of high-level visits, exchange of young officers and also the armed forces personnel training, inter-college exchanges and non-traditional security fields," Gen Liang said through his interpreter. Cooperation between the two navies and maritime security also came up, he said.

The Chinese Defence Minister said this was the year of "friendship and cooperation" between India and China and the two countries should make the most of this opportunity. Military exercises between the two countries had started in 2007 but were put on hold in 2010 after a series of hiccups in the defence ties between the two sides.

The first exercise was held in Kunming, China in 2007 and the second in Belgaum in India in 2008. The third edition was to have been held in China in 2010 but has since remained stalled.
After the denial of visa to the then Northern Army

Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal by the Chinese in 2010, New Delhi had frozen all bilateral defence exchanges with Beijing. The defence exchanges were revived in the recent times but there have been still some hiccups as China has been refusing to grant visas to armed forces officers from Arunachal Pradesh-- an Indian state over which China lays its claim.

PTI

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