China and India to hold joint anti-terror exercise

BEIJING Thu Dec 4, 2008 5:30pm IST

BEIJING Dec 4 (Reuters) - China and India will hold an anti-terrorism exercise in a show of cooperation between the two longtime rivals a week after armed militants attacked Mumbai, state media said on Thursday.

The joint drill, named "Hand in Hand 2008", will be held in Belgaum in south India from Saturday and continue until 14 Dec., a spokesman from China's Ministry of Defence told the official Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

The spokesman Huang Xueping said the exercise involving one infantry company from each country is based on an agreement that Beijing and New Delhi struck in 2006.

China is a longtime friend of Pakistan, which India has said was a base of the militants who attacked Mumbai, killing 171 people. And Huang stressed the anti-terror drill was not aimed at Pakistan.

"There is no specific background to the drill and it is not aimed at third parties," Huang said, according to Xinhua. "The timing of the start of the exercise was set long ago."

Nonetheless, the exercise will underscore Beijing's desire to be seen as working with India in the aftermath of the deadly attack on Mumbai. Mutual distrust and a festering border dispute have long divided the two Asian giants.

"The objective of this joint exercise is to enhance understanding and trust between the two militaries," said Huang.

India and China held their first such joint exercise last year. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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