The world's third-largest Army is now ready for an even deeper engagement with the largest one. After wide-ranging military CBMs, the Indian Army is now planning to invite Chinese officers to witness its combat exercise to be held later this year in Rajasthan.
The Army will showcase its armoured might in the shape of new T-90S main-battle tanks and the recently-upgraded T-72 tanks to the Chinese during the desert exercise.
Though a small step, it indicates the transforming military ties between the two armies which have been deeply suspicious of each other ever since the 1962 conflict, in which 3,250 Indian soldiers were killed. Just a few years ago, the then defence minister, George Fernandes, described China as "a potential threat number one".
The Army, of course, is still wary of the rapidly-modernising People's Liberation Army (PLA), which has 2.27 million "active" troops, its occasional incursions across the unresolved 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), and its "deep" military ties with Pakistan.
But with a military protocol being signed during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit here in April, bilateral military ties are now firmly on an upward trajectory. There might even be a joint counter-terrorist exercise in the near future, say sources.
The formal invite for the armour exercise might well be extended during the visit of chief of general staff of PLA, General Liang Guanglie, also a member of the powerful Chinese central military commission, to India next week.
Apart from talks with defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and the three Service chiefs, Guanglie will get a detailed presentation on India's security perspectives, the integrated command structure of the Indian forces and military information technology applications.
The two sides will also discuss the April protocol on the modalities for the implementation of CBMs along the LAC, which now specifically define the conditions at the ground level by going far ahead of the earlier November 1996 agreement.
The two armies often have "face-to-face confrontations" on the border due to "differing perceptions about where the LAC lies". The protocol lays down that the two will "exercise self-restraint" and take "all necessary steps" to avoid any escalation.
These steps include immediate cessation of activities, no threat or use of force, return to bases and informing their respective HQs. The protocol also tackles air intrusions in a similar fashion, with flag meetings within 48 hours for seeking clarifications.
During his six-day visit, beginning on May 23, Guanglie will also be visiting the 50 (independent) Parachute Brigade, Southern Army Command at Pune, National Defence Academy, College of Military Engineering and Western Naval Command at Mumbai.