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Top defence brass meets Chinese delegation

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General Ge Zhen-Feng, Deputy Chief of General Staff of PLA, China shakes hands with Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik at Air Headquarters, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Image Credit: PTI

NEW DELHI (PTI): Top Indian defence brass met a Chinese delegation which is here on a five-day visit to take forward bilateral relations between the two countries and to plan for future joint military exercises.

The Chinese delegation led by Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) deputy chief General Gezen-feng had meeting on Wednesday with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik and Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and the two sides discussed possibilities of holding joint exercises in the future.

The delegation could not meet Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, as he was away in Meerut, Defence Ministry sources said here.

The Chinese team is scheduled to meet Defence Minister A K Antony and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar to discuss on the scope for bolstering the bilateral confidence building measures later during their visit that will end on December 6.

The visit, which comes in the wake of reports of Chinese Army nibbling in Indian territory all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Soon after, another Chinese delegation led by Tibet Military Regional Command commander-in-chief Lt Gen Shu Yutai will be in India from December 11, officials said.

Meanwhile, commenting on the Chinese delegation visit and his discussions with it, Verma told reporters that India and China shared common concerns and whatever appeared in the respective media was not to be misunderstood.

"I may be meeting them for the first time but there have been occasions earlier when officers from both Navies have interacted. The main thrust during the discussion is that whatever is coming in the media should not be misunderstood," Verma said.

India, particularly the Navy, has for long been suspicious of China's increased presence in the Indian Ocean region.

However, the Navy chief said Chinese were concerned over their energy supplies that flowed through the Indian Ocean's sea-lanes of communication and wanted to secure it, as much as India wanted to secure its energy supplies.

"Both India and China are growing economies. China's energy flows through the Indian Ocean. Their concerns are similar to ours," he said.

Pointing out to the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia, Verma said the Chinese Navy had deployed their warships in great strength to ward off the sea brigands and on their way back home, some of these ships had called on Indian ports recently.

Except for a structured joint Army exercise between the two nations and one-off naval exercises, the armed forces of the two countries have not have much of an interaction, but have had some defence delegation exchanges.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in May 2006 during a visit to Beijing by then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee for joint military exercises and counter-terrorism training, apart from greater defence cooperation.

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