India won’t attend multi-nation military exercise alongside China and Pakistan in Russia

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By SHRI RAM SHAW

New Delhi, 30 Aug: With tensions brewing and India finding itself in a confrontation with its neighbouring countries – China and Pakistan on its borders, it has finally decided not to carry out drills with these countries’ militaries next month in Russia. India had earlier planned to send around 150 Indian Army troops, 45 IAF personnel and a number of Navy officers to the military exercise to be held in Kavkaz, Astrakhan region of south Russia from 15 to 26 September.

The decision to pull out of the multi-nation military exercise hosted by Russia in which Chinese and Pakistani troops too are expected to participate was taken at a high-level meeting where External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat were present. It was decided that with India locked in a military conflict with China in eastern Ladakh, it could not be business as usual. China has stalled all efforts to disengage along the Line of Actual Control.

Defence ministry said, ‘‘in view of global pandemic and consequent difficulties in exercise, including arrangements of logistics, India has decided not to send contingent this year to Kavkaz-2020. The same has been informed to the Russian side.’’ It may be recalled that Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a bitter standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh for over three-and-half months. Both the countries are holding talks at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the dispute.

In “Kavkaz 2020” (“Caucasus 2020”), strategic command-post exercise, various countries, including China and Pakistan, would take part. The exercise will witness the participation of over 12,500 troops, including from Russia. China is sending an army contingent, and also a naval deployment of three ships to the exercise.

Apart from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) members China, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the exercise will also have participation of troops from Mongolia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Belarus, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Contingents from Abkhazia, and South Osetia, which are partially recognised by states by Russia and a few other nations, will also be present.

The Indian contingent was supposed to include around 150 troops and officers from across infantry, artillery, mechanised, and armoured forces along with Special Forces, air defence and signals, and personnel from the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. But, India did not want its military seen alongside that of China and Pakistan as there have been several clashes between troops of both sides and the most brutal took place on June 15 in Galwan Valley where India lost 20 of its men while there was undisclosed number of casualties on the Chinese side. The exercise comes amid an over three month long standoff between India and China at the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there has not been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.

However, Jaishankar and General Rawat also took into account the worsening global Covid-19 situation. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Russia on September 4-6 for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Defence Ministers’ meeting, where India may raise the issue of China amassing troops along the Indian border. The participating nations will strictly follow Covid-19 protocols. The participants will spend 14 days in quarantine preceding their departure and will be tested for Covid again on arrival in Russia.

The Kavkaz 2020 – also referred to as Caucasus-2020 – is an exercise aimed at assessing the ability of the armed forces to ensure military security in Russia’s southwest. Special attention will be paid to applying the experience of modern warfare and stimulating commanders to accomplish assigned missions according to the situation. Strict compliance with training plans helps maintain the high level of the troops’ combat capability, ensure national interests and adequately respond to possible escalations of the military and political situation in any strategic direction.

EOM