INDIA and China Monday signed a historic and first-ever MoU to institutionalise military training and expressed their "endeavour" to hold joint military exercises and training programmes to add more content to their emerging strategic relations.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by visiting Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Chinese counterpart, General Cao Gangchuan after they held over two hours of talks here at the Central Military Commission headquarters.
"This is the first-ever agreement of its kind between the two countries and I am confident that it will serve as an effective framework for facilitating our defence dialogue and exchanges," Mukherjee told Cao during their interaction.
"We must work together to implement it fully," he said.
Addressing a press conference, Mukherjee said the MoU provides a formal basis for the first time for defence and military exchanges that have been taking place between the two countries in the last few years.
The MoU is a major confidence building measure (CBM) in the defence field between India and China and will contribute towards building up greater understanding and trust, he said.
The two defence ministers agreed to have frequent exchanges between the leaders and high-level functionaries of the Defence Ministries and the Armed Forces of the two countries. Both sides will work out an annual programme of exchanges.
The two sides also decided to hold an Annual Defence Dialogue, which would be hosted alternatively by the two sides to review progress in defence exchanges, make suggestions for the future and to exchange views on international, security and strategic issues.
The two ministers reached consensus to "endeavour to hold joint military exercises and/or training programmes in the field of search and rescue, anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and other areas of mutual interest.
Each side will invite senior military officers of the other side to witness designated military exercises, the MoU says.
The two sides agreed to establish a mechanism of study tours for each other's senior and middle level officials in order to facilitate better understanding of the foreign, defence and national development policies of the host side.
Participation in seminars and discussions on themes to be mutually agreed upon. Exchanges in other mutually agreed field to be decided through consultation.
Earlier, Cao accorded a ceremonial red carpet welcome to Mukherjee and welcomed him to China for a six-day official visit.
Cao said the Chinese government hoped peace, stability and economic growth would continue in the south Asia region.
Cao, also vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and state councilor, said the Chinese government supported efforts of south Asian nations to push for regional cooperation.
Friendship and mutually-beneficial cooperation were in the fundamental interests of China and India, and were conducive to the peace, stability and development of Asia and the world, Cao was quoted as saying by Xinhua.