India-US military drills near LAC violate the spirit of Sino-India agreements: China

The 18th edition of the India-US joint military exercise 'Yudh Abhyas' is currently underway in Uttarakhand
Last Updated 30 November 2022, 15:39 IST

China has objected to an ongoing high-altitude military exercise between India and the United States in the Himalayas, alleging that the war drill close to the disputed boundary along the Line of Actual Control flouted the spirit of the two key bilateral agreements inked in 1993 and 1996.

Beijing invoked the two India-China agreements to object to the 18th edition of the “Yudh-Abhyas” – a military exercise being jointly carried by the soldiers of the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army and the 2nd Brigade of the 11th Airborne Division at Auli in Uttarakhand. The drill is being conducted just about 100 kilometers away from the LAC, which serves as the de facto boundary between India and China.

New Delhi too has been citing the same 1993 and 1996 agreements over the past two-and-a-half years, protesting Beijing’s bid to change the status quo along the LAC by deploying a large number of troops of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) so close to it. The agreements required both sides to refrain from amassing large number of troops in the border areas, to strictly abide by and respect the LAC and to avoid taking any unilateral action to alter it.

“The joint military exercise held by India and the US near the LAC violated the spirit of relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996, and does not help build bilateral trust,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “China has expressed concerns to the Indian side over the military exercise,” he added, while responding to a question from a Pakistani journalist.

India has been alleging that it was China’s violation of the two agreements that resulted in the stand-off along the LAC in eastern Ladakh in April-May 2020. Though more than two-and-a-half-years passed since the stand-off started, it has not been resolved completely, although protracted negotiation led to mutual withdrawal of frontline troops from some of the face-off points.

The ‘Yudh Abhyas’ is conducted annually between India and the US with the aim of exchanging best practices, tactics, techniques and procedures between the armed forces of the two nations. The previous edition of the exercise had been conducted at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Alaska (US) in October 2021.

The 18th edition of the Yudh Abhyas started at Auli in Uttarakhand a couple of weeks back and will conclude this week. This is the first time India is holding a war-drill with the US so close to its LAC with China. The scope of the field training exercise in the Yudh Abhyas included validation of integrated battle groups, force multipliers, establishment and functioning of surveillance grids, validation of operational logistics, mountain warfare skills, casualty evacuation and combat medical aid in adverse terrain and climatic conditions, a source in New Delhi said. The exercise involved exchanges and practices on a wide spectrum of combat skills, including combat engineering, employment of drone and counter-drone platforms.

Even as the soldiers of India and US are conducting the joint drill at Auli in Uttarakhand, Lt Gen B S Raju, Vice Chief of Army Staff, hosted Lt Gen James B Jarrard, Deputy Commanding General of the US Army Pacific, in New Delhi on Tuesday and discussed aspects of bilateral defence cooperation.

(Published 30 November 2022, 12:13 IST)

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