Published: Wed, October 11, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurates IAF Commanders' Conference at Air Headquarters

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurates IAF Commanders' Conference at Air Headquarters

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today visited Nathu La area on the Sino-India border and interacted with Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police officials.

A defence ministry statement said Sunday that Sitharaman reviewed the operational readiness first-hand at the Tezpur airbase where the Sukhoi fighter aircraft and other IAF assets are stationed.

Going by the gracious and good-natured exchanges at the Nathu La border post with China, one would have found it hard to guess that the Indian and the Chinese armies were engaged in a bitter standoff in nearby Dokala till just a month and a half back.

When the Chinese soldiers figured out that "Namaste" is a greeting, Sitharaman asks, "What would you say in Chinese?"

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The defence minister's visit to the border area comes more than a month since Indian and Chinese troops disengaged after almost a 70-day standoff at Doklam.

When Indian soldiers present there try to prompt the answer, she promptly stops them, telling them to let the Chinese figure out the meaning on their own.

Another Internet user, Tu Yueyue, wrote in Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, "The Indian woman defence minister directly faced the tough border problem".

In her address, Nirmala Sitharaman said that the powers that are being provided to the Service Chiefs should be fully utilised for achieving their capabilities.

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The minister earlier took to Twitter to share a post showing her waving at Chinese troops who were taking pictures of her from across the border.

The maiden visit of the Minister to the Eastern Command is part of her familiarisation with the formations of the Army and the Air Force.

"The greeting sent a goodwill signal towards mending bilateral ties and putting relations back on track toward normality", said Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies as quoted by the Hindustan Times.

"This is commonly regarded as the attitude of the Narendra Modi government".

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China is said to have started constructing another road on the Doklam plateau, with 500 soldiers protecting construction crew, NDTV reported last week. The two countries announced the withdrawal of their troops in August-end.

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