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‘Closely monitoring china’s military restructuring’, says Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

India is closely monitoring restructuring of China’s military as it is expanding its ‘look-East’ policy to play a vital role in Asia-Pacific region, according to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Sitharaman, who delivered the keynote address at an international seminar to mark the 10th anniversary of China think-tank Chennai Centre for China Studies on Friday, said that post October 2017, China had brought in a change in its policy by pruning its armed forces and making it leaner, meaner and more technologically-oriented and more theatre-driven.

“It has reduced its strength by three lakh,” the minister added. “India which was focusing on People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has changed its erstwhile policy as a whole and is now closely watching the changes in the core like PLA’s navy, air force and its rocket force,” she said.

Voicing concern over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and China providing arms to Pakistan, she said India does not view its ties with China on the prism of China-Pakistan relations.

Highlighting expansion of India’s ‘Look-East’ policy, the minister said that United States had changed the nomenclature of its Pacific Command as Indo-Pacific Command. India’s fleet had even been in Guam and Vietnam.

Underlining the informal talks that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the minister said that the engagement with China was done keeping in mind the long-term ties between the two Asian giants.

Interestingly, it was during the two-day engagement in Wuhan, the militaries of India and China reportedly agreed on the long-pending proposal to set up a hotline between their headquarters.

The hotline was mooted by Nirmala Sitharaman after the 72-day Doklam stand off. She refused to answer a query after the event whether it will again surface during Narendra Modi’s visit to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Saturday. “There were transgressions by China’s People’s Liberation Army across our perception of Line of Actual Control and this is being addressed through greater levels of engagement. The SCO is a greater opportunity for engagement,” she said.

She also highlighted how China through economic cooperation had wooed India’s neighbouring island nations. The think tanks have to view how these economic ties will take shape further or will it have ramifications, she added.

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