Defence minister Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe held delegation-level talks in Delhi today. Both nations decided to work towards reducing troop confrontations with greater interaction. Sources said China brushed aside India’s concerns over CPEC, which Delhi objects to as it passes through PoK

NEW DELHI: India and China have decided to work towards reducing troop confrontations along their unresolved border, with better implementation of confidence-building measures, additional border personnel meeting (BPM) points, greater interaction between local commanders on the ground and “early operationalisation” of the top-level hotline between their militaries.

The two countries also decided to expand the engagement between their armed forces in terms of training, joint exercises and other professional interactions as well as draft a new bilateral MoU on defence exchanges and cooperation to replace the one inked in 2006.

But sources said China brushed aside India’s concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, during the delegation-level talks led by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe here on Thursday. “China insisted the CPEC was not directed against any country and aimed at overall economic growth of the region,” said a source.

India has repeatedly stressed that the so-called CPEC, which connects China’s Xinjiang area with the Chinese-built Gwadar deep sea port in southwest Pakistan through a network of highways, corridors and energy projects worth around $57 billion, violates its sovereignty and territorial integrity. “The presence of People’s Liberation Army troops in PoK is also a big concern,” said the source.

But China continues to stonewall India’s objections, much like it keeps on thwarting New Delhi’s bid to join the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated a terrorist by the UN.

As for the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, which has 23 “disputed and sensitive areas” stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, the two sides on Thursday decided to direct their troops to “maintain restraint” and not allow matters to escalate to the level that was witnessed during the 73-day eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation at Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction last year.

This is in line with the consensus reached during the informal summit between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April, which led to “strategic guidance” to their militaries to manage and defuse troop confrontations during patrolling in accordance with existing protocols and mechanisms.

Towards this end, India is keen to soon establish the long-pending hotline between the two central military headquarters at New Delhi and Beijing, akin to the DGMO-level one between New Delhi and Islamabad. But China first wanted the Indian Army headquarters to be connected with its Western Theatre Command at Chengdu, and then a 48-hour notice to activate it during any contingency. “But now, the two sides will go ahead to fine tune the modalities for its early operationalisation,” said another source.

There is also a move to identify more BPM points along the LAC to add to the ones already existing at Nathu La (Sikkim), Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul (Ladakh), Bum La and Kibithu and (Arunachal). “Troops from the two sides, for instance, interacted for the first time at Kepang La in Arunachal on August 15. A BPM point will also come up in Uttarakhand,” said another source.

With the two sides patrolling aggressively to lay claim to disputed areas, the number of transgressions by Chinese troops along the LAC has already crossed 170 this year. If 273 transgressions were recorded in 2016, the number touched 426 last year in wake of the troop face-off in the Bhutanese territory of Doklam.