Sino-Indian joint drill in Ladakh raises eyebrows

Beijing/New Delhi: Amid India-Pakistan border tensions and high decibel rhetoric on surgical strikes echoing from all corners of India, an event that had gone unnoticed was the first ever joint Sino-Indian military exercise in, well, eastern Ladakh of Jammu and Kashmir on October 19.

Except the military and officials concerned, not many people know about it, simply because both countries do not want to raise hackles in India when the public opinion was running high against Beijing’s pro-Pakistan slant on issues ranging from tacit support to militants in Pakistan wanted by India to blocking Delhi’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.  

Now, apparently, to clear apprehensions in Pak leaders’ minds, China said on Friday that “the drill was not targeted against any third country nor had it anything to do with its stance on Kashmir issue”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing in Beijing: “I would like to point out that this activity is simply a normal exchange between the frontier troops of China and India to properly deal with border affairs”.

Hua added, “border troops of China and India have maintained close exchanges and cooperation for a long time in order to maintain peace and tranquility of the border area. On October 19, border troops of the two countries jointly held a small routine tactical exercise in the Chushul region of the western section of the China-India border close to the Line of Actual Control.

“The two sides also held a similar exercise in this region in February. This exercise focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief under a scenario of earthquakes in the border area, with a purpose to enhance exchanges and cooperation between the two troops and better safeguard peace and tranquility of the border area.”

The latest exercise was the first of its kind in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, joint drills were held in other locations in India. Whatever explanation Beijing has given on the drill, analysts have questioned the wisdom of the BJP government to allow Chinese troops to take part in the exercise in a sensitive area. It could have given them a feel of the terrain and climate, they said.

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