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Parrikar to visit China on April 18 to shore up defence ties

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

Beijing: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will visit China later this month to strengthen military ties despite strains in bilateral relations over Beijing’s move to block India’s attempts in the UN to clamp a ban on Pakistan- based terror group JeM chief Masood Azhar.

Parrikar, the first Indian defence minister to visit China since 2013, will pay a three-day visit starting from April 18 during which he is expected to hold talks with top Chinese political and defence leaders, official sources here said.

His predecessor A K Antony visited China in 2013.

No agreements were expected during Parrikar’s visit which is being regarded as bilateral visit aimed at firming up ties, officials said.

His trip follows high-level visits by top Chinese defence officials including Central Military Commission (CMC) Vice Chairman General Fan Changlong to India last year.

CMC headed by President Xi Jinping is the highest commanding authority of the 2.3-million strong People’s Liberation Army.

While the two sides had set up a dialogue mechanism under Special Representatives of both the countries to find a solution to the vexed boundary dispute spanning 3,488 kms, they also operationalised a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination to address tensions arising out of aggressive patrolling of the disputed boundary.

The Special Representatives have held 18 rounds of talks so far. The two sides also opened more border points for regular interactions between their officers and men to build friendly rapport between them.

Chinese officials say the border situation is generally stable and the two militaries should take concrete actions to implement the consensus reached by their leaders on the issue.

Parrikar’s visit also comes as concerns were rising in India about China’s move to block its bid to have JeM chief Azhar designated as terrorist by the UN in the aftermath of the terror attack on an air base in Pathankot in January.

While Indian officials say that strains resulting out of this controversy will not affect Parrikar’s visit as both sides attached importance to improving military ties, reports say India mulled to re-clamp security checks on Chinese firms investing in India to show its concern over the issue.

India is also concerned by reports of presence of Chinese troops in the forward positions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

China has termed such reports as baseless.

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