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India, China to hold defence dialogue this year

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India and China are all set to resume their defence secretary-level dialogue, which had suffered a setback a year ago after Beijing denied visa to a Jammu and Kashmir-based Army commander.

"We are in the process of finalising dates for the Annual Defence Dialogue, which will be held this year," Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar said Wednesday.

After the visa row erupted, defence exchanges between the two sides were suspended but they resumed recently when an Army delegation under a Kashmir-based Major General went to China last month.

India had called off defence exchanges in July last year after China refused visa to Lt Gen B S Jaswal, who was Northern Army commander, on the ground that he came from "sensitive" Jammu and Kashmir.

On his last day as Defence Secretary, Kumar was interacting with reporters before taking over as the Central Vigilance Commissioner Thursday.

Asked about the progress in the Indian defence projects undergoing in Russia, Kumar said he had visited Moscow last month heading the High-level Monitoring Committee and expressed satisfaction at the pace of the projects there.

"The Russians have also assured us that they will adhere to the December 2012 schedule for the delivery of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier," he said.

On queries related to the role of foreign policy in deciding on the defence acquisitions, Kumar said the ministry's policy in these cases was guided by the operational requirements and needs of the armed forces.

Asked about the rules of engagement provided to the Army to tackle Left Wing Extremists (LWE) in naxal-affected areas, Kumar said the troops there have been provided guidelines by the Government under which they have the right to self defence as per the existing laws in the country.

No special laws are required by the Army to operate in Chhattisgarh as it is in the Maoist-affected areas only for training and not to take part in any operations, he said when asked if laws such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act are required for operations there.

Asked to compare his stint in the Defence Ministry with his future appointment as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, Kumar said the job of a Defence Secretary is "complex" as it demands time and effort.

He said the post of CVC may not require the kind of "firefighting" required in the office of Defence Secretary but is very important in view of the present scenario in the country.

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