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India and China to Discuss Border Hotline to Avoid More Doklam-Like Standoffs

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold extensive talks with her Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on Thursday, focus of which will be to remove distrust.

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Updated:August 21, 2018, 9:45 PM IST
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India and China to Discuss Border Hotline to Avoid More Doklam-Like Standoffs
File photo of an Indian army officer (left) talking to a Chinese soldier at the Nathu-la pass on the country's northeastern border with China. (Photo: Reuters)
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New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe will hold extensive talks on Thursday, focus of which will be to remove distrust and boost coordination between the armies of the two neighbours guarding their disputed border, official sources said.

Wei arrived here on Tuesday on a four-day visit, nearly three-and-half months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that strategic communication between the two armies should be enhanced to avoid Doklam-like standoffs.

The Chinese defence minister met Modi during which the PM said both the countries are handling their differences with "sensitivity and maturity" by not allowing them to become disputes.

Sources said the primary objective of Wei's visit is to deliberate with Indian defence establishment on implementation of decisions taken by Modi and Xi during the informal summit in Wuhan in April.

In the delegation level talks, the Indian side is likely to raise the issue of presence of sizeable number of Chinese troops in North Doklam.

Doklam, in the Sikkim sector, is a strategically important area which is claimed by Bhutan. India has been acting as security guarantor to the tiny country in the sensitive region.

The two sides are likely to deliberate on a mechanism under which troops from both sides will inform each other before carrying out any patrolling on the disputed areas along the nearly 4,000-km border.

The sources said both sides will also attempt to resolve differences in setting up of a hotline between the armies of the two countries.

After the Wuhan summit, both sides revived the long-pending proposal to set up the hotline so as to avoid flare-ups along the disputed border. But, the initiative hit roadblocks over differences on issues relating to protocol and technical aspect of the hotline.

The Indian Army has been maintaining that the hotline should be between its Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and his equivalent official in Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). However, Beijing proposed that the deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command would engage with the Indian DGMO.

The Indian Army is opposed to the Chinese proposal, insisting that an officer equivalent to Indian DGMO at PLA's headquarters should be deputed for the communication through the hotline.

Currently, India and Pakistan have a hotline between their DGMOs. The hotline between India and China was first mooted by the two countries in 2013.
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