China’s military, which in 2020 carried out multiple transgressions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which India has said violated past border agreements and triggered the worst crisis in decades, has now cited those same pacts to object to upcoming India-U.S. exercises, a charge India denied..
“We firmly oppose any third party to meddle in the China-India border issue in any form,” People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, said at a monthly press conference in Beijing in response to questions about the upcoming drills.
In Delhi the MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the India-US exercises are “completely different” from the situation at the LAC, and denied that they were “targeting” China or were violative of previous agreements. In response to a question from The Hindu about the PLA statement, Mr. Bagchi said that India has always held that the two sides should “stick to” past agreements. “Obviously, that hasn’t happened”, he added, referring to Chinese transgressions along the LAC and to India’s protests about the PLA’s attempts to change the status quo despite 1993 and 1996 protocols.
According to reports, the upcoming fifteenth edition of the “Yudh Abhyas” joint exercise is expected to take place next month in a high-altitude area in Uttarakhand less than 100 km from the LAC.
In April 2020, two divisions of the PLA, having completed routine exercises, deployed in large numbers close to the LAC and carried out multiple transgressions which, India has pointed out, violated the 1993 and 1996 agreements to maintain peace in the border areas.
A clash in Galwan Valley in June 2020 marked the worst violence along the LAC since 1967. After disengagement in some regions, talks have been deadlocked to complete the process.
On Thursday, the PLA spokesperson said China “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,” he said. “Both sides have maintained effective communications at all levels and agreed to properly handle the situation through bilateral dialogues. 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 Line of Actual Control”.
“It is hoped,” he added, “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.”