Officers of Indian army and PLA of China shake hands during the inauguration of the joint military exercise at Umroi military station in Meghalaya on Saturday

Indian army men and personnel of People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China are set to exchange their weapons and expertise on counter-terrorism in semi-urban areas, with the beginning of the 20-day-long joint military exercise in the hilly Umroi military cantonment in Meghalaya on Saturday.

The first such Indo-China joint exercise in the Northeast, one of the "contentious" regions between the two neighbours, will continue till December 20. 

The focus on initial four days of the exercise will be on orientation to training area, lectures on counter terrorism environment, firing with each other's weapons, improvised explosive devices drills and others.

"Although this is the eighth edition of Indo-China joint military exercise, this has a special meaning as it is being held as part of celebration of 70th year of diplomatic relations between India and China. This is part of efforts of the two countries to further improve relations to deal with the uncertain global environment. Peace and tranquillity in our border areas is required for healthy environment and development. This is also an effort to bring armed forces of the two countries closer and understand each other better," said major general Deepak Mehera, general officer in commanding of Indian army's Red Horns division, while declaring the exercise open here.

Col Hu Chunguang of 1st battalion is leading the 130-member PLA military team belonging to its Tibet Military Command.

Indian army officers, who are part of the exercise, said it had special importance as far as bilateral relations between forces of the two countries are concerned, as China has often claimed parts of the Northeast, including entire Arunachal Pradesh, as part of its South Tibet region. "Such an exercise will help in easing the tension in the future," one of them hoped, requesting not to be named.

"The scope of this exercise cover company level joint training on Counter-terrorism operation in semi-urban terrain under the United Nations mandate. The exercise is aimed at building and promoting positive relations between armies of the two nations," said Ratnakar Singh, Indian defence public relations officer based in Shillong, Meghalaya. 

Umroi military station, situated at about 100-km South East of Guwahati, amidst lush green pine trees and jungles, hosted similar joint exercises with military teams from Thailand, Japan, Bangladesh and some others. Such exercise was earlier conducted in the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairangte in Mizoram but the training program with foreign forces has recently been shifted to Umroi.