China’s Ministry of National Defence on Tuesday said annual joint military exercises with Pakistan, due to be held next week, were "not targeted at any third nation" and were drills focused on combating terrorism, rejecting Indian media reports which said the exercises were aimed at India.
The exercises, the Ministry said in a statement, were part of an annual exchange between the two militaries, and would take place near Islamabad.
"This is the first joint drill of the two armies this year and is not targeted at any third nation,” the Ministry said in a statement issued to the official China Daily newspaper.
"It is aimed at enhancing the capability of the two militaries to handle non-traditional security threats and launch joint anti-terror activities," the statement added.
The China Daily said the announcement of the exercises had caused a media “frenzy” in India, pointing to recent reports in Indian newspapers which said drills, to be conducted along the border, were part of a Chinese plan to put pressure on India.
Fu Xiaoqiang, a scholar at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a State-run think-tank, described the media reports as “groundless” and based on “hearsay evidence”.
"[The Indian media] always wear blinkers to examine China’s cooperation with Pakistan,” he told the China Daily. “For example, we all know there are many Chinese experts and engineers in Pakistan working on large projects. It is the Indian media who linked that with security issues”.
A statement issued by the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations in October said the exercises, named Youyi-IV (or “Friendship”), were aimed at “mutual exchange of experience and information” and would “encompass techniques and procedures involved in Low Intensity Conflict Operations environment.”
The joint exercises, it said, were aimed at “sharing and enhancing expertise of both armies in countering terrorism.”
The exercises were started in 2004, with Pakistan becoming the first foreign army to conduct an exercise on Chinese soil, the statement said, adding that three exercises had been held since.