Indian Army is hosting a high-level delegation from a crucial Chinese command in Sukna, West Bengal.
New Delhi: India and China have revived talks to establish a hotline telephone link between their militaries. The proposal, first made in 2012, was nearly agreed to in April 2016 during then defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to China. But it went into cold storage after India signed a logistics support agreement with the US as well as the Doklam stand-off in Bhutan in June-July last year.
As of Tuesday, the Indian Army is hosting a high-level delegation from a crucial Chinese command at the headquarters of the 33 Corps in Sukna, West Bengal. Troops under the 33 Corps had crossed the border at Doka-La in eastern Sikkim and stopped Chinese troops from building a road through Doklam last summer.
Indian official sources were unwilling to be specific on the proposal for the hotline (or hotlines), but a release from the Indian Army’s Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command said: “This visit by the military delegation to the military headquarters at Sukna is a significant step forward towards increasing interactions at military commander’s level and implementation of various agreements to maintain peace and tranquility on the borders.” (sic)
Sources in the defence ministry told ThePrint the visit of the delegation and the meetings, first at army headquarters with vice-chief of army staff Lt. Gen. Devraj Anbu, in New Delhi Monday, are “a precursor to more friendly connections”.
The Chinese delegation led by deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theatre Command (WTC), Lt. Gen. Liu Xiaowu, is scheduled to be hosted at Indian Army’s Eastern Command headquarters at Fort William, Kolkata, Thursday.
India wanted DGMO-level hotline
India had initially wanted a hotline between the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) in New Delhi with his counterpart in PLA in Beijing. In essence, India wanted a mirror image of the kind of “hotline” it has with Pakistan’s military headquarters in Rawalpindi.
But China argued that since the dispute along the 3,488-km long frontier was not settled and transgressions were routine, it was important that theatre commanders were quick to resolve differences. In 2012, it proposed telephone connections between its frontier headquarters at Langzhou with Indian northern command headquarters in Udhampur and Chengdu with Fort William.
In 2016, China’s PLA re-organised its hierarchy to bring all its units facing India under a single, unified “Western Theatre Command” (WTC). Unlike China, the Indian Army has three commands on the northern frontier — the Eastern Command in Kolkata, the Central Command in Lucknow and Northern Command in Udhampur.
The visit of the Chinese delegation is also likely to lead to the revival of the India-China joint army exercise that is being held every alternate year since it began in 2007.
Like the talks on hotline connections, the preparatory meetings for the largely ornamental series of exercises (named “hand-in-hand”) were deferred or cancelled either because of India signing the LEMOA pact with the US or because of troop stand-offs or both.
Then defence minister Parrikar had said after reaching the agreement in April 2016 that the Chinese had quizzed him on LEMOA (the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) and that he had explained India was independent in its foreign policy.