Military trust key to better Sino-Indian ties

China Daily
Li Jiayao

Defense Minister Wei Fenghe's ongoing four-day visit to India, which started on Tuesday, marks another major step forward in efforts by the two countries to rebuild trust between the two militaries, one year after a 73-day military standoff in Donglang.

The standoff, which came to an end only after the two armies agreed to disengage following diplomatic intervention, plunged bilateral relations to a low unseen for many years.

Yet the fact that it ended peacefully thanks to both sides upholding established rules of conduct along their disputed border reflects the resilience in their relations. It also underscores the importance of the two militaries maintaining strategic communication to avoid any misjudgment that could threaten peace and tranquility along their 3,500-kilometer border, which is yet to be delimited.

That is what Wei is expected to achieve with his visit, the first by a Chinese defense minister in six years, as the two sides are reportedly trying to deliberate on a mechanism under which troops from both sides will inform each other before carrying out any activities in disputed areas. There are also reports that both sides will explore the possibility of setting up a hotline between the two armies.

This positive momentum was initiated by the informal summit between President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan, Hubei province, in April, during which the two leaders agreed to set the Donglang standoff aside and turn a new chapter in China-India relations.

There is no reason for the two neighbors to get bogged down in their border dispute that is a legacy of history, as the common interests they share far outweigh their differences. The fact that not a single bullet has been fired at the border over the past nearly five decades reflects the utmost importance both countries have attached to peace.

With a combined population of 2.6 billion, or 40 percent of the world's total, the two largest developing countries can work together on many issues, such as global trade and climate change, poverty alleviation and counterterrorism, on which they see eye to eye. That's why Modi termed bilateral relations "a factor of stability in the world", during his meeting with Wei on Tuesday.

Of course, there are differences between the two neighbors, but so long as they take each other's concerns and interests into full account and seek to resolve their differences through talks and consultation, Sino-Indian relations will continue to prosper.

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