Beijing: China today said it will continue to strengthen defence cooperation with India as the two nations' armies kicked off the fifth round of annual anti-terror military drills in the Chinese city of Kunming aimed at enhancing mutual understanding, communication and cooperation.
"The drills will play a significant role in safeguarding domestic security and strengthening mutual trust between militaries of both sides and contribute to the sound development of bilateral relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told a media briefing in Beijing.
"We will continue strengthen our cooperation on national defence and inject more positive energy to our bilateral ties," she said replying to a question.
India fielded a contingent of 175 troops from 2nd Battalion of Naga Regiment from Eastern Command which also looks after the border with China while China deployed troops from 14 Corps of China's Chengdu Military Region, whose focus is on Indian borders.
Both sides pressed same number of troops for the joint exercises, which will culminate on October 22, a press release by the Indian Embassy in Beijing said.
The purpose of the exercise is to develop joint operating capability, share useful experience in counter-terrorism operations and to promote friendly exchanges between the armies of India and China, the embassy said.
Troops from both sides will undergo intensive joint training, which will include displays, demonstrations, and a comprehensive joint exercise during the drills.
The three-phase integrated exercises include armament display, military demonstration, and troop training, it said.
The armament display includes light weapons and equipment for military engineering and logistics, while the demonstration will feature shooting, group tactics and unarmed combat, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
In the second phase, troops will be trained in combat, anti-terrorism tactics, humanitarian aid and disaster-relief communication and the two sides will also conduct joint manoeuvres.
Addressing the troops, Indian Ambassador to China, Ashok K Kantha said the 'Hand-in-Hand' joint exercises this year are significant as they are truly "joint" in planning, command structure and in execution.
"Under conditions when terrorism has emerged as a major threat to humanity, the counter-terror cooperation between the two militaries has added significance," he said.
The two armed forces should develop the habit of working together and the joint exercises are an important endeavour in that direction, Mr Kantha said.
"India and China have agreed that peace and tranquility in the border areas is an important prerequisite for continued growth of bilateral relations," he said.
"In this regard, the two countries have put in place several CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) and the joint military exercises are an important component of the CBMs," Mr Kantha said and recalled the understanding between the leaders of the two countries and called for further strengthening defence exchanges.
In his remarks, Lieutenant General Surinder Singh, Corps Commander, Eastern Command called for strengthening defence exchanges between India and China.
Zhou Xiaozhou, deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Chengdu Military Area Command, said the exercise aims to improve China-India military communication and enhance mutual trust.
It does not target a third party and is not related to regional events, he said.
Zhou said high-level visits between India and China, especially the visit of President Xi Jinping to India last year and that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China this year have pushed forward bilateral relations.
"The joint military exercise will help enhance mutual understanding and communication and cooperation between the armed forces of India and China," Zhou said.
This is the fifth round of exercise between both the armies. The first drill was held in southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2007, followed by drills in Belgaum in Karnataka in 2008. The third round was held in southwest China's Sichuan in 2013, followed by the fourth in Pune in 2014.