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Top India, China officials hold defence, security dialogue, agree to step up military exchanges

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BEIJING (PTI): Top officials of India and China held the ninth Annual Defence and Security Dialogue here after a one-year gap due to the Doklam standoff, as both countries agreed to enhance military exchanges and interactions.

The dialogue on November 13 was held between the two defence delegations headed by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and China's Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission.

At the talks both sides agreed on enhancing defence exchanges and interactions at different levels between the two militaries, a press release by the Indian Embassy here said on Thursday.

After the talks, Mitra called on Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe on Wednesday, the release said.

Mitra was accompanied by senior officials of the ministry of defence and Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

The annual dialogue did not take place last year following the 73-day tense standoff between the two militaries at Doklam, which was triggered by the Chinese PLA's plan to build a road close to the narrow Chicken's Neck corridor connecting India's northeastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan besides China.

The standoff ended when Chinese troops stopped the road construction after which both countries stepped up efforts to normalise relations leading to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year.

The defence dialogue was also held ahead of the 21st round of border talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries in the Chinese city of Dujiangyan on November 23-24.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi are the designated Special Representatives for the border talks.

Besides efforts to work out a solution to resolve the boundary dispute spanning 3,488 kms, the border talks also focussed on discussions on other aspects of India-China relations.

Also the two militaries are due to hold the annual 'Hand-in-Hand' drills next month in China after gap of one year.

During the dialogue, both sides also agreed on specific defence exchanges for 2019.

"Both sides agreed to enhance exchanges and interactions through reciprocal high-level visits between the two ministries of defence as well as between military commands, joint training exercises, mutual visits by defence personnel including mid-level and cadet officers were also agreed upon," the Indian Embassy's press release said.

Both sides reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas, implementing the consensus reached between Modi and Xi and specific additional confidence building measures at the operational level, it said.

The two sides also had exchange of views on regional and global issues.

"Both sides underlined the importance of this dialogue as an important mechanism between the two countries for consultations on defence and security matters. They emphasised the need to further strengthen military-to- military ties in order to strengthen political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries," it said.

Both sides agreed to hold the next round of the dialogue at a mutually convenient time in India in 2019.

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