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Over a year after Doklam, India and China to resume Army exercise this December

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The army exercise between India and China was called off last year amid hostilities over the showdown at Doklam.

New Delhi: India and China are set to revive their bilateral army exercise in December, signalling a thaw in hostilities that erupted in light of the Doklam standoff last year.

The exercise, ‘Hand in Hand’, has been hosted alternately by India and China. The latest edition will be held in Kunming, China, where the first of the series was held in 2007.

Army sources said the dates for the December exercise were yet to be finalised, but sessions to plan it had been held.

Hand-in-Hand typically involves a counter-terrorism setting. The last edition was held at the Aundh Military Station in Pune in 2016.

Also read: As US and China battle it out, India stands to gain

Over the years, the exercise has been called off periodically when standoffs at the disputed frontier spilled onto the diplomatic realm, as happened last year on account of the standoff at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction.

Positive signs

India and China, two of the world’s biggest economies as well as rivals for Asian superiority, have made some positive strides in their relationship of late.

According to Army sources, meetings of the border personnel, frozen since Doklam, have resumed. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited China in April this year. Meanwhile, India’s eastern Army commander visited China, while the deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s newly created Western Theatre Command made a trip to India.

But India and China are yet to resolve a proposal for hotline links between the two armies. China wants the Western Theatre Command, which is in charge of the Tibet frontier, to deal with the Indian Army Headquarters in New Delhi. But New Delhi wants a hotline between the regional commands, like it has with Pakistan’s army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Also read: The many ways India must NOT think about China

Meanwhile, at a seminar in New Delhi Wednesday, senior Indian Navy officials took note of Chinese military presence in the Indian Ocean Region, which has been a subject of concern for New Delhi. The officials said China was seeking to build military bases in eastern Africa as well as Myanmar.

“But, so far, they have got ‘spaces’ and not bases,” said one official.

China’s deployment of submarines for counter-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa, meanwhile, was described as “ludicrous and befuddling”. A Chinese submarine had also docked at a Sri Lanka port last week.

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  1. “Spaces not bases” is a remark that is meant to assuage or downplay China’s encirclement in the Indian Ocean. Does India have spaces that are actively being turned into bases? What are we doing to convert islands to maritime bases? China’s policy is clear: turn up the temperature very gradually until they reach their goals unnoticed.

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