India and China discussed ways to step up cooperation to counter terror in Afghanistan and in the region as the Taliban and Al Qaeda militant groups attempt to stage a come back in the resource-rich country following the withdrawal of US forces next year.
"The two sides had in-depth exchange of views and opinions on international and regional counter terrorism situation and bilateral cooperation in this field," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said briefing the media on the two-day India-China counter-terrorism dialogue which ended here today.
The increasingly fragile Afghan situation with increased attacks by Taliban, and initiatives by China, India and Russia to deal with critical situation emerging out of US troops withdrawal was reportedly discussed.
The six round of annual Sino-Indian counter-terrorism talks were held between inter-agency delegations headed by Additional Secretary of External Affairs Ministry, Navtej Sarna and the Director General, External Security of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qiu Guohong.
Sarna and his delegation today called on Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping, who took part in the recent India, China and Russia trilateral dialogue in Moscow, which was also attended by National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to discuss situation in Afghanistan.
While Menon was expected to be in Beijing to establish contacts with China's new leadership, Afghanistan would once again be discussed during Joint Secretary-level talks between the two countries later this month.
With over USD three billion investment in resource-rich Afghanistan, China is increasingly getting interested in the emerging situation there after US and NATO troops withdraw next year owing to its own concern in the fragile security situation in Xinjiang, the Muslim Uygur dominated province where East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is fomenting a separatist movement.
India too has its concerns over the impact of a destabilised Afghanistan on the situation in Kashmir.
The US has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan now. The Obama administration plans to withdraw 34,000 by February and bring home most of the rest by the end of 2014, leaving a small force to train and advise Afghan forces and carry out counter-terrorism efforts.
Observers say China's initiatives to step up dialogue and coordination with India and Russia on Afghanistan reflects Beijing's concerns over Pakistan steadily loosing grip over Taliban and other militant groups as Islamabad is struggling to deal with them at home.
Officials say the talks at present were aimed at working out convergence and explore the possibility to work out a joint strategy to deal with complex situation unravelling in Afghanistan.
Asked whether China is exploring a joint regional strategy, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "It is true that recently China, Russia, India and Pakistan held trilateral dialogues respectively.
During the two consultations, relevant parties exchanged views on regional issues and the situation in Afghanistan."
"They believe that the situation in Afghanistan is closely connected to regional security and stability," he said.
"Relevant parties' dialogue on the Afghan issue can help them enhance mutual understanding, deepen trust and step up coordination.
They agreed to remain committed to peace and stability of Afghanistan in the region and support the reconciliation process owned by Afghans and led by Afghan people," he said.
"They also agreed to support the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to play greater role on the Afghan issue and explore and discuss anti-terrorism and anti-drug cooperation within the framework of the Istanbul process," the spokesman said.
In the counter-terrorism dialogue, the issue of Cyber Security also reportedly figured.
The issue is significant as recent report alleged most of the attacks were emanating from some of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) battalions in Shanghai.
China routinely denies the allegations saying it also suffered hundreds of cyber attacks on its installations.