New Delhi and Beijing will consider linking up military headquarters and regional commands with hotlines during the Defence Secretary level dialogue next Tuesday in an attempt to prevent any adventurism along the 3,488 kilometre Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries, people familiar with the matter said. The issue could be discussed in the two-day dialogue Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra is to hold with Lt General Shao Yuanming, the deputy chief of Joint Staff department, central military commission of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) on November 13 and 14.
Specifically, in addition to the hotline between the two countries’ military headquarters, diplomates based in New Delhi and Beijing added, there is the possibility of a hotline between PLA Commander of Western Theatre Command covering Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang, and a designated Indian Army Commander. The two hotlines will address the requirements of both countries: New Delhi wanted direct contact between the heads of military operations at the headquarters and Beijing, dedicated communication between heads of regional commands as there is no centralized military operations at the PLA headquarters. India’s problem in having a dedicated hotline between regional commands is that it does not have theatre commands concept in its military. In PLA, the Western Theatre commanders manage both the Tibet and Xinjiang regions bordering India, while the Indian Army’s Northern, Central and Eastern Army commanders manage the LAC.
Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said that military hotlines will be helpful if they are between the highest military levels on both sides as PLA formations in Tibet should get instructions from PLA Beijing headquarters in order to maintain peace and tranquility in the LAC.
According to senior government officials, the two defence will finalise the bilateral military cooperation agenda for 2019, including bilateral military exercises and exchanges. India and China will be holding the “hand-in-hand” military exercise in Chengdu region next month with Special Representative dialogue on boundary issue scheduled on November 23, 24, and 25. The exercise – there have been six editions so far – was put on hold in 2017 on account of Doklam: India hosted the annual exercise in 2016.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity said India is unhappy at China’s support for Pakistan’s shallow overtures to New Delhi. On November 4, a joint statement on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing said: “ China appreciates Pakistan’s quest for peace through dialogue, cooperation and negotiation, on the bases of mutual respect and equality and supports Pakistan’s efforts for improvement of Pakistan-India relations and for settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries.” The Chinese endorsement of PM Khan comes at a time when the Pakistan Army is routinely indulging in cross-border firing in support of terrorist infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir.
On the bilateral front, the incidents of transgressions across the LAC have recorded a low this year with armies on both sides ready to discuss the issues rather than adopt an aggressive posture on the borders. Hindustan Times reported in June that the number was 20% down from last year.