India and China have agreed to work towards preparing a bilateral pact on defence cooperation and operationalise a military hotline after defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman held talks with her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe in New Delhi on Thursday.
The delegation-level talks also agreed for more interactions between the two militaries. The Chinese side suggested installation of more than one military hotline, including between the local commands, according to a statement issued by the defence ministry. A new memorandum of understanding will replace the 2006 pact where the two nations agreed to have regular military exchanges and joint military exercises. Wei is on a visit to India from August 21 to 24.
The two sides agreed to create the hotline at the level of the Director General of Military Operations, a source said. The Indian Army had insisted that the hotline should be between the DGMO and his PLA equivalent but China has proposed that the commander of its Western Theatre Command located next to India should engage with the Indian DGMO. China also suggested to have about two to three military hotlines with India. “They have suggested to have it at the local command level as well, such as between Northern Command and its counterpart,” the source said.
Sitharaman explained challenges due to cross-border terrorism, views on bringing peace in Afghanistan and freedom of navigation in South China Sea. She also raised the issue of the CPEC which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The two agreed to enhance ‘port calls’ (stop for a ship on a scheduled journey for supplies and fuel).