India, China Move Towards Joint Military Exercises
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Months after suspending the high-level defence exchanges, India appears to be moving to resume military manoeuvres with China as indications emerged today that the two countries could be holding joint exercises in the near future.

The indications emerged on the eve of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Sanya and amid apparent Chinese moves to reverse its two-year-old policy of granting stapled visas to Indian nationals hailing from Jammu and Kashmir.

"The joint exercises would be held," a source said here when asked whether the military exercises will resume.

The source pointed out that some level of defence contact like border flag meeting had always been maintained even after high-level military exchanges were suspended after the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal was given a visa on a loose sheet because he was serving in the state.

On the stapled visa issue, the sources noted that there was some movement but India will have to wait and watch how things evolve.

They said the two countries will have to work quietly on this without making any announcements.

China had in 2008 started the practice of issuing visas on loose sheets of paper to people from Jammu and Kashmir, which was seen here as questioning India's sovereignty over the state.

This had been an irritant in bilateral relations and the matter had snowballed into a major controversy last July after the Jaswal episode.

The Prime Minister had taken up the stapled visa issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Vietnam in October last year when they had met on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit.

The issue was again raised in December with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao when he visited here.

The sources pointed out that political and economic relations between India and China had been growing and that the borders were also calm.

On the building of infrastructure by China along its borders with India, the sources said India was also doing so on its side of the border to catch up with its eastern neighbours.

It was pointed out that 78 road projects were expected to be completed by India by 2012 and all but eight would be finished on time. The remaining eight will take a little longer.

Singh and Hu will meet in Sanya tomorrow and are expected to discuss furthering bilateral relations.

India and China will also be holding political and strategic dialogue in the next two months, dates for which are being worked out, the sources said.

The sources noted that during the visit of Premier Wen to New Delhi, the two sides had dealt with the "difficult issues" at length and discussed ways.

Underlining that the India-China relations were much more than few issues, the sources said while New Delhi was keeping a watch on developments related to stapled visas, it is "not be-all and end-all to the relationship".

In this context, they referred to the coordinated views and approach India and China have been having on major global issues like economic crisis and Libya.

At the UN, India and China were on the same side when the issue of Libya came up, they noted.

During their meeting, Singh and Hu are expected to discuss the volatile situation in West Asia and Northern Africa, considering the importance that region has for both the growing economies in the context of energy security.

India has been opposed to use of force by foreign countries in Libya and is appreciative of the initiative by South African President Jacob Zuma to bring about a resolution in a peaceful manner through dialogue.

"If there are humanitarian concerns, as are being projected, this (dialogue) is the way. There is a need to avoid war and solve political differences through talks," the sources said.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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