“Hand-in–Hand” – the annual exercise between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will not happen this year, top sources have told The Newspaper.
The exercise – wherein Indian and Chinese troops simulate various counter-terrorism scenarios – is alternatively held in China and India. It started in 2007 as a confidence-building measure between the two Asian giants and their armies.
India had written to China in March 2017, wanting to start the initial planning process. There has been no response yet. Days after India sought to plan the exercise, the Doklam stand-offbegan where India and Chinese troops faced each other over two-and-a-half months in Bhutan, clouding the atmosphere. “It takes a lot of time to prepare for such exercises. The window for conducting the exercise is no longer available”, a senior officer told The Newspaper.
In 2016, the exercise was held at Pune’s Aundh Military Camp. This year the exercise was scheduled to be held in China.
Yesterday, after many years, the Chinese and India troops did not hold the ceremonial border personnel meeting to mark China’s National Day – October 1. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army didn’t extend an invitation to the Indian Army, top sources told The Newspaper. The annual ceremonial meeting is held across five designated Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) points along the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). The designated BPM points are used by local commanders to meet their counterparts on the other side to sort out local and ground level difference. The LAC is not demarked on the ground, leading to varying perception of the border.
Interestingly, the suspension of scheduled confidence-building measures between the two militaries comes at a time when China appears to be reaching out to India to normalise relations after the Doklam stand-off.
WHAT THE CHINESE ENVOY SAID
Speaking in New Delhi on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese envoy to India said, “We should turn the old page and start a new chapter with the same pace and direction. We should dance together. We should make one plus one eleven. China is the largest trading partner of India. We have made a lot of progress at the bilateral level, as well as in international and regional affairs”, Luo Zhaohui said on Saturday.
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the BRICS Summit in Xiamen.
The bilateral military-exercise has been suspended earlier as well. Hand-in Hand was suspended between 2009 and 2013 when China refused visa to the Northern Army Commander of India in 2009, citing its “sensitivities” over Kashmir. New Delhi, nonetheless, is keenly watching the developments. “Statements of the Chinese envoy to India are very positive, let’s wait and watch”, member of the National Security Advisory Board, General S L Narasimham (retired) told The Newspaper.