Taking the thaw in military-to-military relations between them a notch higher, India and China on Friday agreed to hold their next joint army exercise at Belgaum in Karnataka this December.
The fortnight-long exercise, the first on Indian soil, comes a year after the Indian Army and the Peoples Liberation Army had conducted their maiden military counter-terrorism exercise on Chinese soil last December at Kunming in south west China.
Army headquarters sources told PTI that though the dates and venue for the exercise were agreed to "tentatively," at the bilateral meeting in progress in Beijing at present, a final confirmation from the Chinese was expected soon.
Belgaum has been suggested as the exercise venue by India, as it is home for its Army's Commando School. "December is when the school will be holding no courses and the campus would be available to host the Chinese troops," said an army officer who is closely associated with the talks in Beijing.
India and China, which had fought a short war in 1962 that had strained relations for nearly four decades, had since the dawn of the 21st Century improved their defence ties.
Mukherjee, who had this week named China as a futuristic threat to India's economic and strategic national interest, was the architect of the improved defence ties, which was firmed up when he as defence minister in 2006 signed agreements for greater military-to-militaryexercises between New Delhi and Beijing.
Incidentally, Chinese navy chief Admiral Wu Sheng Li had visited New Delhi this week on a five-day visit to further strengthen navy-to-navyties.
Both navies have in the past held joint naval exercises too, particularly in 2007as part of confidence building measures when Indian warships had visited the eastern coast of China and held naval war games.
Also, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major is currently in China to meet his Peoples Liberation Army-AirForce counterpart and senior defence officials, apart from visiting air defence establishments in Beijing and Hanzhou, and attending the Zhuhai air show.
TheIAF has also loaned its Suryakiran aerobatics team for performing in the Chinese skies, for the first time, during the Zhuhai air show and it has already enthralled the audience there this week.
Majoralso carried India's proposal for a joint air exercise between the IAF and PLAAF, which both sides are currently discussing.
Indiahas time and again expressed doubts over Chinese defence forces' expansion plans, particularly their deployment along the line of actual control along Tibet and the growing incursions by its navy in the Indian Ocean Region.