Chinese activity in eastern Ladakh ‘eye-opening’, behaviour ‘concerning’, says U.S. Army General

India and U.S. to hold high-altitude exercise in October

Updated - June 09, 2022 06:50 pm IST

Published - June 08, 2022 08:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Manoj Pande with General Charles Flynn, Commander of U.S. Army Pacific, in New Delhi.

Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Manoj Pande with General Charles Flynn, Commander of U.S. Army Pacific, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Chinese activity level in eastern Ladakh is “eye-opening” and some of the infrastructure being created in its Western Theatre Command is “alarming”, a top U.S. General said on Wednesday while stating about the regional situation that what China is doing today by taking an “incremental and insidious path” and the “destabilising and coercive behaviour” that it projects into the region are simply “not helpful”. 

In this backdrop, India and the U.S. are set to hold the bilateral Army exercise in high-altitude area in October this year.

“I believe that the activity level is eye-opening. I think some of the infrastructure that is being created in the Western Theatre Command is alarming. And so, much like across all of their military arsenal, one has to ask the question, why? The question comes as to what are their intentions,” General Charles A. Flynn, Commander of U.S. Army Pacific, said, speaking to a select group of journalists.

“I think that the talks, that are going on, are helpful, but behaviour matters here as well. So I think understanding what they are saying is one thing, but the way they are acting and behaving is concerning and should be concerning to everyone, and I think it is,” he added.

Stating that the “destabilising and coercive behaviour” that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) project into the region were simply not helpful, General Flynn said it was worthy for likeminded countries to work together as a counterweight.

“Our ability to strengthen relationships in the region as a counterweight to these destabilising activities and strengthen the network of allies, partners and likeminded countries for the protection of their land, resources, protection for a free and open Indo-Pacific and that is worthy of us working together as a counterweight to some of those coercive and corruptive behaviours of the Chinese,” the visiting General said.

General Flynn also stressed the centrality of land power and said that armies and land power in this region were the security architecture that bind the region together, which he also reiterated at a round-table discussion on the importance of land power in the Indo-Pacific organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

After the beginning of the stand-off in eastern Ladakh in April 2020, India and China had forward deployed thousands of troops along the Line of Actual Control in the area who largely continue to remain deployed, with the disengagement and de-escalation still incomplete.

To a question during the round-table on the U.S. assistance to India during the stand-off, he said that in addition to sharing of insights, the U.S. had also accelerated transfer of extreme climate weather systems and different types of ammunitions, including for M-777 howitzers, among other capabilities.

On the military-to-military interactions between the armies of India and the U.S., General Flynn referred to the Army staff talks held in Hawaii in June and remarked that the exchange of information between “what the Indian Army delegation expressed to us and we were able to share with them was profound”.

The General will be visiting the Army’s Eastern Command in Kolkata on Thursday before wrapping up his India visit.

High-altitude exercise

The General also laid a lot of emphasis on the bilateral Army exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ and said the next edition of the exercise, to be hosted by India, would be held at an altitude of 9,000 to 10,000 feet in October and would see very high-level joint operations at high altitude. Last year, the Indian Army was in Alaska for the exercise.

Elaborating, General Flynn said the joint operations at high altitude in both countries would involve bringing in new technology, working on operational concepts, applying new concepts like air-ground integration like Air Force assets, attack aviation, sustainment, medical evacuation and information exchange on a real-time basis.

“These are all invaluable opportunities that the Indian Army and the U.S. Army can capitalise on in these training environments,” General Flynn stressed.

He said these joint operations and sharing practices increased everybody’s readiness to respond to whatever crisis that may occur and so had a “deterrent effect” across the region. The training and rehearsing together was a very valuable way of “expressing our commitment to one another”, he said.

Since the stand-off, China has undertaken massive expansion of infrastructure to house additional troops close to the LAC, including a bridge connecting the north and south banks of Pangong Tso which would significantly bring down the time for the PLA to move troops and equipment between the two sides.

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