(TibetanReview.net, Dec01’22) – As the prolonged Sino-India border standoff continues, despite some agreed pullback of troops on both sides on some points carried out over the past couple of years or so, China has on Nov 30 objected to the holding of an annual India-US joint military exercise. The 18th edition of the exercise, called Yudh Abhyas (combat exercise), was under way at Auli in Uttarakhand state, about 100 km from the line of actual control (LAC) with Chinese occupied Tibet.
The previous edition of this exercise was conducted at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska (USA) in Oct 2021.
Beijing had also warned the US to refrain from interfering in its ties with India, the US Defence Department said in its latest report on the Chinese military build-up, including in occupied Tibet, presented to the Congress late on Nov 29.
Yudh Abhyas, held annually since 2004, is aimed at improving the interoperability of the Indian and US armies to increase partner capacity for “conventional, complex and future contingencies throughout the Indo-Pacific region”, noted the timesofindia.com Dec 1.
China sees the exercise as a problem to it. “The joint military exercise held by India and the US near the Line of Actual Control violated the spirit of relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996, and does not help build bilateral trust. China has expressed concerns to the Indian side over the military exercise,” the ANI news service Nov 30 quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian as saying in Beijing at a regular press conference.
India alleges that China itself is in flagrant violation of these agreements, which resulted in the current tense border standoff in Ladakh, as reiterated this time also by India’s Ministry of External Affair (MEA). It is China that needed to stick to bilateral agreements in the context of the standoff in eastern Ladakh, the report cited the MEA as saying.
Citing the Chinese defence ministry earlier, the report said Beijing sees the current 15-day exercise, which happens against the backdrop of the ongoing eastern Ladakh military standoff, as an effort by “third party” to meddle in India-China border affairs.
India has rejected this assertion from Beijing. “The India-US exercises are something completely different, and I don’t know what colour has been given that it is targeting there or violating existing pacts. I have no such information that I would be able to substantially agree to that,” the report quoted an MEA spokesperson as saying.
It has pointed out in an earlier tweet from the Additional Directorate General of Public Information, Indian Army, “The joint exercise will focus on the employment of an Infantry Battalion Group in Peace Keeping & Disaster Relief operations under the #UN Mandate.”
China seeks to prevent border tensions from causing India to partner more closely with the US, the latest Pentagon report has said.
Throughout the border face-offs, Chinese officials sought to downplay the severity of the crisis, emphasising Beijing’s intent to preserve border stability and prevent the stand-off from harming other areas of its bilateral relationship with India.
Yet, throughout 2021, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was stated to have sustained the deployment of forces and continued infrastructure build-up along the LAC. Moreover, negotiation was stated to have made minimal progress as both sides resisted losing perceived advantages on the border.
“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) seeks to prevent border tensions from causing India to partner more closely with the United States. PRC officials warned US officials to not interfere with the PRC’s relationship with India,” the report said.
The Pentagon report notes that China’s Western Theater Command, which is oriented toward India and counterterrorism missions along China’s Central Asia borders, is geographically the largest theater command within the PRC and is responsible for responding to conflict with India and terrorist threats in western China.
Within the PRC, the Western Theater Command is stated to focus on Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Regions, where the Communist Party of China perceives a high threat of separatism and terrorism, particularly among Uyghur populations in Xinjiang.