US to take part in military drills near India's disputed border with China

The exercose will be held next month and will focus on high-altitude warfare training: Beijing set to wrap up largest-ever Taiwan military drills

By: News Desk
Published: 09:30 AM, 7 Aug, 2022
US to take part in military drills near India's disputed border with China
Caption: Soldiers disembark from AAV7 amphibious assault vehicles during the Han Kuang military exercise, which simulates China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) invading Taiwan.
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The United States is to take part in a joint military exercise with India less than 100 kilometers from the South Asian country's disputed border with China.

The military drills will be held in mid-October at an altitude of 10,000 feet in Auli in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and will focus on high-altitude warfare training, according to a senior Indian army officer with knowledge of the matter.

Auli is about 95 kilometers from the Line of Actual Control (LAC), an inhospitable piece of land where the disputed border between India and China is roughly demarcated.

The drills will take place as part of the 18th edition of an annual joint exercise known as "Yudh Abhyas" -- or "War Practice".

Relations between India and China have been strained since a bloody clash between their soldiers in the Himalayas in June 2020 left at least 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers dead.

Tensions have been raised further recently by China building a bridge across the Pangong Tso lake that sits along the border -- a move condemned by the Indian government as an "illegal occupation." 

During a visit to India this year, the US Army's Pacific Commanding General Charles Flynn described China's military build-up near the disputed border as "alarming."

Asked about the joint exercises, a US Department of Defense spokesperson told CNN that the partnership with India was "one of the most important elements of our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region."

"One important element of this broader effort includes exercises and training events and Yudh Abhyas is one such annual bilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability and improve our respective capacities to address a range of regional security challenges," the spokesperson said.

Line of Actual Control

The Line of Actual Control, the loosely-defined, de facto border between India and China, emerged out of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, which itself was sparked by longstanding historical territorial disagreements.

Its precise location can be blurry, and there is still dispute between China and India as to where one country ends and the other begins.

Any military provocations between Indian and China could have grave consequences. Both have nuclear weapons.

Border tensions escalated between the two countries after soldiers fought with fists, stones and nail-studded bamboo poles in a bloody brawl that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers in June 2020 in the Galwan Valley, close to Aksai Chin, an area controlled by China but claimed by both countries.

Though tensions have since eased, both sides maintain a large troop presence in the border region, raising the risk of potential miscalculation in the event of sudden and unexpected clashes.

China set to wrap up Taiwan military drills

China is set Sunday to wrap up its largest-ever military exercises surrounding Taiwan after a controversial visit to the self-ruled island by US leader Nancy Pelosi.

Beijing has raged at the trip by Pelosi -- the second in the line of succession to the US presidency -- ripping up a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defence cooperation.

It has also deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles around Taiwan in what analysts have described as practising a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island.

Those exercises are set to wrap up Sunday, though Beijing has announced fresh drills in the Yellow Sea -- located between China and the Korean peninsula -- to take place until August 15.

Saturday saw China deploy "multiple batches" of planes and ships into the Taiwan Strait, Taipei authorities said, some of which crossed a demarcation line that divides the waters, which Beijing does not recognise.

"They were judged to be conducting a simulation of an attack on Taiwan's main island," Taipei's defence ministry said.

In response, the democratic island's military mobilised air and land patrols and deployed land-based missile systems the ministry said.

As of 5:00 pm local time (0900 GMT), Taiwan's army said "20 Communist planes and 14 ships were detected in the waters around Taiwan conducting joint air-sea exercises".

- 'A dangerous opponent' -

In a bid to show how close China's forces have been getting to Taiwan's shores, Beijing's military released a video of an air force pilot filming the island's coastline and mountains from his cockpit.

And the Eastern Command of the Chinese army shared a photo it said was taken of a warship patrolling seas near Taiwan with the island's shoreline visible in the background.

The drills have also seen Beijing fire ballistic missiles over Taiwan's capital, according to Chinese state media.

Taipei has remained defiant throughout China's sabre-rattling, insisting it will not be cowed by its "evil neighbour".

Taiwan's foreign ministry urged Beijing on Saturday to "immediately stop raising tensions and taking provocative actions to intimidate the Taiwanese people".

But experts have warned the drills reveal an increasingly emboldened Chinese military capable of carrying out a gruelling blockade of the self-ruled island as well as obstructing American forces from coming to its aid.

"In some areas, the PLA might even surpass US capabilities," Grant Newsham, a former US Navy officer, told AFP, referring to China's military by its official name.

"If the battle is confined to the area right around Taiwan, today's Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent -- and if the Americans and Japanese do not intervene for some reason, things would be difficult for Taiwan."

- 'Punishing the world' -

The scale and intensity of China's drills -- as well as Beijing’s withdrawal from key talks on climate and defence -- have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting with his Philippine counterpart on Saturday, said Washington was "determined to act responsibly" to avoid a major global crisis.

China should not hold talks on issues of global concern such as climate change "hostage", Blinken said, as it "doesn't punish the United States, it punishes the world".

The United Nations has also urged the two superpowers to continue to work together -- for the world's sake.

"For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

With inputs from AFP.