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India, China to hold first joint military exercise
December 19, 2007 17:47 IST
Last Updated: December 19, 2007 20:01 IST
In an atmosphere tinged with the Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai spirit, Indian troops arrived in Kunming, China on Wednesday to a warm welcome by the Chinese hosts for the first-ever Sino-Indian joint military exercise in a hilly terrain in the south-western Yunnan province.
It was bonhomie all through after the Indian Air Force's special transport aircraft IL-76 touched down at the airport, with Chinese military officials receiving their Indian counterparts and troops drawn from the Jammu and Kashmir [Images] Light Infantry with cordiality and warmth.
As the men from both militaries exchanged pleasantries and were introduced to one another, the Chinese People's Liberation Army played the band followed by a ceremonial welcome later at the Kunming Military Academy, where the 103 Indian soldiers will stay.
The joint exercise will begin on December 21 with the spotlight on anti-terrorism drills, with China expected to draw upon the experience of Indian troops known for expertise gained in their counter-insurgency operations.
The largely mountainous Yunnan province on China's south-west frontier shares its border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.
The troops, who arrived from Guwahati after a little more than two hours flight, will familiarise themselves with the terrain on Thursday before they plunge into the full-scale drill lasting five days.
The joint exercise, which comes after signs of warming of ties in recent years between the two Asian giants, was scheduled to happen much earlier, but the dates were finalised in Beijing [Images] during the first ever Annual Defence Dialogue between the two nations.
"This is the first time the armies of China and India are holding the joint exercise. It is very important to improve mutual trust and understanding", Senior Col Tian, a military expert, told PTI before the Indian troops landed.
The drill, he said, would focus on anti-terrorism. "The aim is to strike against terrorism. We will, through this exercise, understand each other and build mutual trust," Tian said.
He described the joint drill as the platform for understanding of two armies.
The growing defence ties between India and China were earlier exemplified in the joint naval exercise held in November 2003 off Shanghai on China's eastern seaboard which has continued since then, with the latest one being an advanced five-day exercise involving two frontline Destroyers of the Indian navy held in April.
The two armies, who were locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation for decades across the Himalayan borders, have been holding bonhomie meetings, but this is the first time a major confidence building exercise involving the two armies is being conducted.
India and China had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2006 expressing their desire to hold joint military exercises in the fields of search and rescue, anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and other areas of mutual interest. There has however been no contact between the two Air Forces.