Rajnath Singh and Li Keqiang
Rajnath Singh and Li Keqiang

BEIJING: India and China today agreed to form a ministerial-level mechanism headed by their home ministers for the first time to step up cooperation and coordination on a host of security-related issues, including cross-border terrorism, smuggling and drug trafficking.

The decision to form the ministerial mechanism was agreed upon after Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s talks in Beijing with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Interior Minister Guo Shengkun.

The ministerial mechanism which would be followed by a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the security-related issues to be worked out, will become operational during Guo’s visit to India next year, Singh told the media in Beijing after his meetings with Li and Guo.

The committee will handle issues like terrorism, security and law enforcement related issues, transborder crimes, cyber crimes and drug trafficking.

“From now onwards all the issues will be handled by the committee, co-chaired by both the home ministers,” he said.

The committee will meet every year to review the progress, Mr Singh said.

“There is a common recognition by both sides that terrorism is a common threat. It is a transnational and transborder threat which requires our joint response,” he said adding that the point was also highlighted in talks with Li.

The decision by the two countries to deepen cooperation relating to terrorism comes in the backdrop of the Paris terrorist attacks and killing of Chinese and Norwegian hostages by Islamic State terrorists.

“In principle we have agreed to a new bilateral document which will provide the contours of cooperation in counter terrorism, security, trans border crimes and related issues,” Mr Singh said.

The ministerial mechanism would be assisted by a working level mechanism headed by joint secretary level officials of both the countries, Singh said expressing satisfaction over the steady improvement of cooperation between the two nations.

Besides various aspects of security issues, the mechanism significantly would focus on cross border terrorism and information-sharing on terrorism which India and China face from a “joint source” – Pakistan.

While India faces cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan in Kashmir, China faces the same problem with East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Xinjiang-based al-Qaeda- backed outfit which has bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“We have agreed to expand our cooperation to combat international terrorism through exchange of information on terrorist activities, terror groups and linkages. We will also exchange experiences in anti-hijacking and hostage situations etc. We will coordinate our positions on anti-terrorism endeavours in the multilateral fora,” Mr Singh said.

“We also agreed on expanded cooperation in training and capacity building of the security forces,” he said.

India has agreed to China’s suggestion that in view of the shared desire on both sides to upgrade the cooperation in security related issues, there should be a framework agreement, he said.

While reluctant to spell out the details on China working out such an agreement with India, considering its close ties with Pakistan, Singh however said it is the culmination of consensus between leadership on both sides about the positive direction of the relations between the two countries.

Mr Singh said in his 40-minute talks with Li, ranked second after President Xi Jinping, he raised the border issue and frequent incursions by Chinese troops, resulting in tensions.

Both sides agreed on the necessity of maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border while moving towards an early settlement.

Earlier, Mr Singh kicked off his visit this morning with a visit to China’s People’s Public Security University, which trains police officers in a range of security-related operations where he interacted with Fan Jingyu, the CPC Secretary of the University unit and discussed issues relating to training of police officers, and also visited the university’s control room, official source said.

“Visited People’s Public Security University of China in Beijing today. It has nearly 10000 faculty members to teach security and policing,” Mr Singh tweeted.

In another tweet, he likened the university with India’s National Police Academy at Hyderabad.

“Establishing a National University on policing & security in India would be of immense help,” he said in another tweet.

Guo also hosted a banquet in honour of Singh. Guo’s rank in the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) is higher than that of a minister.

Today, Mr Singh will hold talks with another top Chinese security official Meng Jianzhu, a member of CPC Politburo and Secretary of Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

On Saturday, Mr Singh will travel to Shanghai where he would visit China’s security-related establishments and address the Indian Association.