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For Peace, Indian Troops Mark China Festival

In a historical move, an Indian Army team crossed the border to visit a Chinese town in Tibet to mark China's 55th National Day. During the two-hour stay on October 1, the Indian soldiers were entertained by Chinese cultural troupes with songs and dances.


Following some consultation, 50 Indian troops, some with their family members, traveled to the remote outpost on southwest China's Himalayan border with India's Arunachal Pradesh state.


On his return, the Indian officer leading the troops, Brigadier Vikram Raghavan told reporters: "We want to be friends and even the Chinese side shares such a strong feeling.”


Exorcising the ghost of the 1962 border war, the delegation of 50 army men and their families, besides journalists, made its way from Arunachal Pradesh to the Chinese town of Bumla, for two hours of festivities.


The border near Bumla is divided by heaps of stones.


The visit by the Indian delegation follows a similar gesture shown by the People's Liberation Army of China who attended India's Independence Day celebrations on Aug 15 at the Bumla Pass Indian border post.


About 50 Chinese military officials and soldiers, also with their families, had traveled to the Bumla Pass, close to the Chinese outpost, for Indian Independence Day on 15 August.


"This was a kind of a return visit," said Brigadier Raghavan, "a reciprocal gesture and one that's part of our confidence-building process along the Line of Actual Control.”


"I can say the winds of change are blowing across the Himalayas and we want to be friends."

Neither Chinese nor Indian troops here are talking of hostilities any more.


"Our relations are improving and there is no question of a war," said PLA Senior Colonel Chen Yen Hui as he supervised the celebrations at Nagdoh. "China and India will be friends forever."


Brigadier Raghavan said: "Since we started these confidence-building exercises and these reciprocal visits, tensions have eased on what once was a very sensitive frontier.


"Violation of each other's territory, incursions by patrols have come down sharply. We have little to complain about each other these days."


He said it was "particularly significant" that the Chinese had allowed the Indian media to visit their remote outpost.


Bilaterial relations improved greatly after former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's six-day trip to China in June last year. The two countries decided to sort out their 40-year border dispute by appointing senior officials to tackle the matter. This year, China finally accepted the Himalayan state of Sikkim as part of India.


It is yet to accept Arunachal Pradesh as part of India but analysts say the joint celebrations are a significant move.


(China Daily, October 3, 2004)

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