India, China agree to expand military ties after defence talks

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India and China have agreed to expand their military ties and enhance interaction to ensure peace on their common border, India said after a meeting between the old rivals’ defence ministers.

China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman before their meeting in New Delhi, August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Relations between the Asian giants were strained last year over a 73-day military face-off in a remote, high-altitude stretch of their disputed Himalayan border.

But the neighbours have over recent months been working on mending ties and visiting Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week that their countries’ friendship dated back to ancient times.

On Thursday, Wei had extensive discussions with his Indian counterpart, Nirmala Sitharaman, the Indian government said.

“It was decided to expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions,” the government said in a statement issued late on Thursday.

The ministers also discussed their border and agreed to implement “confidence building measures” to ensure the maintenance of peace, including the early operationalisation of a hotline between their armed forces, India said.

India and China fought a war in 1962 and the unresolved dispute over stretches of their 3,500 km (2,200 miles) border has clouded relations ever since.

But the two big Asian economies share similar positions on a host of issues including concern about U.S. tariffs and Chinese President Xi Jinping and Modi agreed in April to improve relations.

A man walks inside a conference room used for meetings between military commanders of China and India, at the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Robert Birsel

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