China lashes out at Indo-US military drill in Oct, says it violates bilateral agreements

BEIJING: China strongly opposed the war games scheduled between India and the US near the disputed Sino-India border in October, saying it’s an interference in the bilateral boundary issue and a violation of agreements between New Delhi and Beijing that no military drill will be held near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two countries.

“We firmly oppose any third party to meddle in the China-India border issue in any form,” Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson for the Chinese defence ministry said on Thursday when asked to comment on the drill at the monthly press conference of the ministry.

While the drill is yet to be officially confirmed, several reports from Indian and international media have said that soldiers from the two countries will participate in a joint military exercise at Auli in Uttarakhand in October, some 100km from the LAC.

It will be the 18th edition of the “Yudh Abhyas” (practice for war) drill, a bilateral India-US exercise, and will be held at an altitude of over 10,000 feet.

The exercise will take place in the backdrop of the ongoing border friction between India and China in eastern Ladakh with both sides having deployed thousands of troops and heavy weaponry along the LAC.

The Chinese defence ministry’s strong response against the drill comes days after external affairs minister, S Jaishankar, blamed China for the border tension and marked deterioration in ties.

Spokesperson Tan, according to the English transcript of the press conference released by the defence ministry, said China has “…always stressed that military cooperation of relevant countries, especially on exercises and training activities, should not be targeted at any third party, but rather serve to help maintain regional peace and stability”.

The China-India border issue is a matter between the two countries, Tan said.

“Both sides have maintained effective communications at all levels and agreed to properly handle the situation through bilateral dialogues,” he said.

Tan then cited two agreements signed by India and China in 1993 and 1996, saying the exercise violates both.

“In light of the relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996, neither side is allowed to conduct military exercise against the other in areas near the LAC,” Tan said.

Tan was referring to the “1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC in the Sino-Indian Border” and the “1996 Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC in the Sino-Indian Border”.

Tan, however, glossed over New Delhi’s consistent view that in 2020 it was Beijing, which triggered the dragging standoff by its unilateral actions to alter the LAC and by amassing troops along the de facto border - and violating both agreements.

Tan insisted India should keep its commitment.

“It is hoped that the Indian side will strictly abide by the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and the relevant agreements, uphold its commitment to resolving border issues through bilateral channels, and maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area with practical actions.”