New Delhi: Officials of India and China on Thursday discussed confidence building steps between the security personnel manning the undemarcated border between the Asian giants—months after the militaries of the two countries pulled back from a tense 73 day long standoff at Doklam in Bhutan.

The discussions in New Delhi come ahead of a visit by Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman to China. And they follow from talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Xiamen in September on the sidelines of the BRICS summit where the two sides had agreed to discuss confidence building measures to ensure instances like Doklam do not recur.

Other interactions planned between the two sides in the coming months include a visit by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to China in April and a visit by Modi in June also for a regional meet.

The talks on confidence building measures took place under the aegis of the 11th round of the Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination for India-China Border Affairs and one of the points put across by India was that “maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas is an important pre-requisite for further development of bilateral relations between the two countries," an Indian statement said.

The Indian delegation was led by Pranay Verma, joint secretary (East Asia), ministry of external affairs, while the Chinese delegation was led by Yi Xianliang, director general, department of boundary and oceanic affairs, ministry of foreign affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

“The discussions were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere. Both sides exchanged views on ways to improve border management," the statement said.

“Various confidence building measures aimed at further enhancing the level of mutual trust and understanding between border personnel were discussed. Both sides also agreed to explore the possibility of strengthening cooperation through exchange of visits and institutionalised dialogue mechanisms in order to promote better understanding and cooperation between the two defence forces," it said.

India and China have an undemarcated border, a legacy of their brief but bitter 1962 border war. Twenty rounds of talks by special representatives of the two countries have not resolved the problem but agreements between the Asian giants in 1993,1996, 2005 and 2013 have resulted in the maintenance of peace though both sides accuse the other of incursions into each other’s territory.

The Doklam standoff last year—seen as one of the most serious instances of tensions rising between the two countries—was triggered when Chinese troops started constructing a road on the plateau that Bhutan claims as its territory. Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay. India said the action to construct the road changed the status quo and expressed concern that the road will allow China to cut off access to northeastern states.The standoff ended on 28 August with both sides pulling back their troops.

The Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination for India-China Border Affairs was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas, as well as to exchange views on strengthening communication and cooperation, including between their border security personnel, the statement said.

The two sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the WMCC at a mutually convenient time, it added.

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