Defence cooperation was paused in August last year after China refused to issue a proper 'pasted' visa to Lt Gen B S Jaswal, the GOC-in-C. He was the Northern Army Commander in Jammu and Kashmir which China considers "disputed".
While the Chinese side is very keen to resume the defence exchanges between the two countries, New Delhi is insisting that the issue of stapled visas to J&K residents must be resolved first.
In this context, New Delhi has noticed that Beijing has not issued a single "stapled visa" to J&K residents since Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao's visit last December. Government sources confirmed this development — that has taken place quietly — to The Indian Express, although there have been no formal or official communication from Beijing on the issue. The real test, sources said, is whether the Chinese are issuing proper 'pasted' visas to Indian nationals hailing from J&K.
South Block sources, who have been tracking this issue, said New Delhi is not yet celebrating this development, but is "cautiously optimistic". However, the issue of stapled visas, sources added, remained with respect to the residents of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Chinese Embassy spokesperson Zou Yonghong refused to comment on the issue of stapled visas.
South Block sources said that the issue of defence exchanges is likely to be discussed during the Prime Minister's visit to Sanya, a city in China's Hainan island, where he is expected to meet the Chinese leadership.
A bilateral meeting is expected on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit on April 14, which will be embracing South Africa as a new member. Sources said depending on the progress of discussions between the two sides, a possible visit of the Defence Minister is also being discussed.
Though no dates are being discussed as yet, sources said there is a possibility of A K Antony going to China after the elections in his home state, Kerala.
During his India visit, the Chinese Premier had made an oblique pitch for defence cooperation in the course of his speech at the Indian Council of World Affairs as he said that China is ready to work with India to intensify exchanges and multi-level consultations between political parties and "in the military field" to enhance political and strategic mutual trust.