Antony to visit China; border security mechanism to top agenda

Beijing, PTI | Updated : 04 July 2013, 09:10 AM

Defence Minister A K Antony will arrive here on a four-day visit on Thursday during which the militaries of India and China are set to firm up their ties with focussed talks on new border security mechanisms to avert incursions like the one witnessed in Ladakh region recently.

Accompanied by a high power delegation from the three armed forces, Antony will meet his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan on Friday.

This will the first visit by an Indian Defence Minister in seven years to China.

Antony is also expected to call on Premier Li Keqiang besides visiting a military unit and a command centre, official sources said.

The visit was also to reciprocate the last year's visit of Chinese Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie to New Delhi, which took place after a gap of eight years.

Antony's visit comes days after the 16th round of border talks between National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi here during which the two sides had a threadbare discussion on mutual concerns especially, the incursion of Chinese troops into the Depsang Valley on April 15.

The row was resolved after the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the area following a 20 day fracas.

Though no agreements are expected to be signed during the visit, the two sides were expected to have advanced negotiations on the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), a new mechanism suggested by China last year for improving security at the borders, pending the final settlement of the territorial dispute.

The BDCA which has several facets was discussed extensively between the two sides, including during the June 28-29 border talks.

After the talks, Menon said "We are making progress steadily. I think the proof is in the successful way we handled Depsang, and in the way we are discussing a new BDCA, which was proposed by the China to better manage the situation at the border".

He said it would be further discussed during Antony's visit.

The two countries are strengthening the edifice of mechanisms that are in place. There was a broad measure of agreement on BDCA but the two sides still have to do a little bit of work on text itself, Menon said.

Officials said BDCA would come up for discussions during Antony's talks but not expected to be signed.

The BDCA was expected to set up mechanisms which will provide for consultations for communication between both side to improve management at the border.

India is ensuring that it would not affect development of infrastructure in the border areas along the  Line of Actual Control (LAC), according to officials.

Besides BDCA, the two sides were expected to finalise the dates to resume the military exercises which would focus on anti-terrorism drills.

Both sides have already finalised the modalities for the exercises which would be held in Chengdu, close to Tibet.

Armies of India and China held their first exercises in 2007 at Belguam in Karnataka with plans to hold such events annually.

Similar exercises were held in 2008 at China's Kunming city.

The drills got disrupted after China's new policy of granting visas on piece of paper to residents of Jammu and Kashmir. China also denied visas to a top General of the Northern Command after which India called off military contacts.

The issue was sorted out in 2011 leading to resumption of the contacts once again.

First Published: Thursday, July 04, 2013 09:08 AM
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