FIFTH JOINT IN­DIA-CHINA COUNTER TER­ROR­ISM EX­ER­CISE

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE -

The fifth joint counter ter­ror­ism ex­er­cise by troops of the In­dian Army and China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) got un­der­way on Oc­to­ber 12, 2015. The ex­er­cise termed ‘Hand-in-Hand 2015’ will ter­mi­nate on Oc­to­ber 23, 2015. This time the ex­er­cise is be­ing held in Kun­ming in China. The first such ex­er­cise was held in south-west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince in 2007, fol­lowed by an ex­er­cise in Bel­gaum in Kar­nataka in 2008. The third round was held in south-west China’s Sichuan prov­ince in 2013, fol­lowed by the fourth ex­er­cise in Pune in 2014.

In­dia for the first time fielded troops from the Naga Reg­i­ment to take part in the ex­er­cises. A con­tin­gent of 175 troops from 2nd Bat­tal­ion of Naga Reg­i­ment from East­ern Com­mand reached Kun­ming by IAF IL-76 air­craft to take part in the ex­er­cise. On the Chi­nese side troops from 14 Corps of China’s Chengdu Mil­i­tary Re­gion, which fo­cuses on bor­ders with In­dia, are tak­ing part in the ex­er­cise. Troops of both sides will un­dergo in­ten­sive joint train­ing, which will in­clude dis­plays, demon­stra­tions, and a com­pre­hen­sive joint ex­er­cise. The pur­pose of the ex­er­cise is to de­velop joint op­er­at­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, share use­ful ex­pe­ri­ence in counter-ter­ror­ism oper­a­tions and to pro­mote friendly ex­changes be­tween the armies of In­dia and China, the press release said.

Ob­server groups of both armies wit­nessed an im­pres­sive open­ing cer­e­mony at Da­ban­qiao Train­ing Base of 14 Group Army at Kun­ming on Oc­to­ber 12. In­dian Am­bas­sador to China Ashok K. Kan­tha and head of Ob­server’s Del­e­ga­tion Lt Gen­eral Surinder Singh at­tended the meet­ing and ad­dressed the par­tic­i­pat­ing troops. From the Chi­nese side, Lt Gen­eral Zhou Xiaozhou ad­dressed the par­tic­i­pat­ing troops.

Th­ese ex­er­cises are all a part of the con­fi­dence build­ing mea­sures which have been in­sti­tuted in the past few years to over­come the ‘trust deficit’ be­tween the two coun­tries. The two armies have al­ready op­er­a­tionalised their fifth border per­son­nel meet­ing (BPM) point at Daulat Beg Oldi last month, which adds to the ex­ist­ing ones at Chushul (Ladakh), Nathu La (Sikkim), Bum La and Kibithu (Arunachal). Ad­di­tional BPM points, the border de­fence co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment inked in Oc­to­ber 2013 and pro­posed hot­lines be­tween top com­man­ders are all de­signed to bridge the trust gap be­tween the two armies ranged against each other along the 4,057km line of ac­tual con­trol (LAC).

In­dia’s wari­ness to China’s ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion is un­der­stand­able even though there has been no fir­ing along the LAC now for many decades. The PLA’s fast pace of mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion and ac­quir­ing po­tent trans-border, space and cy­berspace mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties at such a rapid pace to­gether with its strate­gic part­ner­ship with Pak­istan and as­sis­tance given to Pak­istan in the nu­clear and the con­ven­tional mil­i­tary fields, and its pres­ence in the Pak­istan oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK), clearly in­di­cate a nexus which makes In­dia wary of their long-term in­ten­tions. Some an­a­lysts feel that China is pri­mar­ily try­ing to counter the on­go­ing ‘re­bal­ance’ of US mil­i­tary forces to the Asia-Pa­cific. How­ever the ex­pand­ing foot­print of Chi­nese nu­clear and con­ven­tional sub­marines in the In­dian Ocean re­gion over the last year has also served to ac­cen­tu­ate the con­cerns in In­dia.

Joint mil­i­tary drills be­tween China and In­dia will “surely pro­mote bi­lat­eral col­lab­o­ra­tion”, said an opin­ion piece in China’s staterun Global Times. “In or­der to match Chi­nese troops’ com­bat skills, of­fi­cers and sol­diers from elite In­dian forces are drafted into the ex­er­cise. As al­ways, Western pub­lic opin­ion is pay­ing close at­ten­tion to Sino-In­dian mil­i­tary ties, as well as the im­pact of the Sino-In­dian border dis­putes on Asian geopol­i­tics,” wrote Wang De­hua, who is Di­rec­tor of In­sti­tute for the Southern and Cen­tral Asian Stud­ies at the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Wang went on to fur­ther state that in his view “a joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cise is a barom­e­ter of bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships”. Com­ment­ing on the doubts ex­pressed in western me­dia, Wang added: “As a new mea­sure of es­tab­lish­ing mu­tual trust, there is no point in making a fuss over the drill. Con­fronta­tions in re­cent years were not cre­ated on pur­pose, but hap­pened by accident. Lead­ers from both China and In­dia have con­sen­sus and enough means to take di­ver­gences un­der con­trol”.

In­dian Am­bas­sador to China Ashok Kan­tha takes a look at the weapons dur­ing

Ex­er­cise Hand-in-Hand 2015 at Kun­ming, China

LT GEN­ERAL V.K. KAPOOR (RETD)

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