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India, China to resume annual military exercise later this year

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Indian and Chinese soldiers during the Hand-In-Hand joint military exercise in this file photo.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Suspended after the Doklam face-off, the bilateral military exercise of India and China is likely to resume this year, in sync with renewed efforts by both the countries to reset ties hit by a tense standoff between their troops, government sources said Wednesday.

The exercise 'Hand-in-Hand' between the armies of the two countries will take place within next 4-5 months in China and an announcement is likely to be made very soon, sources told PTI.

It is learnt that the issue of resumption of the annual exercise had figured during talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe in Beijing on Tuesday.

Sitharaman was in Beijing to attend a meeting of defence ministers of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is travelling to Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday on a two-day visit to hold an "informal summit" with Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen as an effort to build mutual trust between the two sides.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said the two leaders will try to reach important consensus to resolve outstanding issues and build mutual trust during their talks in Wuhan.

The government sources said both sides want to resume the military exercise as it will act as a confidence building measure between the two armies.

The annual exercise was to be hosted by China in 2017 but it did not take place due to the Doklam standoff. So far, both sides have participated in six editions of the exercise. India had hosted the exercise in 2016.

Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. The face-off was "resolved" on August 28 last year.

The area in Doklam where China tried to construct a road is a disputed territory claimed by both China and Bhutan. India sent its troops to stop the Chinese construction activity, saying it could be a threat to its strategic interests in the region.

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