Indian, Chinese armies may take part in multilateral drills

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 The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army may be caught in a tense border standoff along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, but both are likely to send troop contingents to Russia next month to take part in a multilateral exercise, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

Talks between the two armies to reduce border tensions are stuck in a stalemate and the disengagement process in Ladakh has hit a roadblock.

The Pakistan Army is also likely to take part in the exercise, Kavkaz-2020, said one of the officials cited above. Eighteen countries are expected to take part in the exercise, including the member-states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

While it is not uncommon for the armies of India, China and Pakistan to be part of multi-nation exercises on neutral territories (they even deploy alongside in United Nations peace missions), the exercise planned next month appears to have become more newsy because of the ongoing border row in the Ladakh sector, said a second official.

“Participation of Pakistan and China in this annual event as part of the SCO should not be contextualized in the perspective of the India-China border row,” said former army vice chief Lieutenant General AS Lamba (retd).

India is sending a tri-services contingent of 150 to 200 personnel to Russia for the drills scheduled from September 15 to 26. Details of the Chinese and Pakistani participation are not known.

India and China were unable to bridge their differences on the disengagement and de-escalation process along the LAC during diplomatic talks last week, with New Delhi emphasising the need to resolve “outstanding issues” speedily, as reported by Hindustan Times on August 20.

People familiar with developments during the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs dismissed an assertion in a readout from the Chinese foreign ministry that the two sides had “positively evaluated the progress” in the disengagement process.

The military dialogue between senior commanders from the two sides has hit a roadblock due to Chinese reluctance to restore status quo ante in some key friction areas along the LAC. The commanders set the time-frame and method of disengagement while the WMCC monitors the process.

No dates have yet been fixed for the next round of talks between corps commander-ranked officers who have so far met five times but failed to break the deadlock.