New Delhi: India Saturday withdrew from a multilateral military exercise — Kavkaz-2020 — that was scheduled to be held in southern Russia next month as it did not want to perform drills with Chinese soldiers amid tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), ThePrint has learnt.
The decision was taken after a high-level military and diplomatic meeting, sources in the defence and security establishment said.
The exercise is to be held in the Astrakhan province of southern Russia between 15 and 27 September, and other participants include Pakistan, among other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an intergovernmental organisation comprising eight Asian nations.
India had planned to send 200 military personnel, including 180 soldiers from an infantry battalion and observers from the IAF and the Navy, to take part in the exercise, also known as Caucasus-20.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the Covid pandemic and the prospect of doing military drills with Chinese and Pakistani soldiers in the multilateral exercise proved “the tilting point” in India’s decision to withdraw.
India-Russia military diplomacy
Kavkaz is part of a four-year exercise cycle of the Russian army, and the name is based on the region where these exercises are held. Previous editions of the exercise were held in 2012 and 2016.
A total of 13,000 troops will participate in the exercise. China is likely to participate with substantial numbers of Naval surface combatants, defence sources had earlier said.
India’s military diplomacy with Russia, through a series of joint military exercises, started in 2003 with the first edition of Ex Indra, a bilateral Naval exercise.
India and China have been involved in a tense stand-off along the western sector of the LAC, in Ladakh, that has been continuing since May. Fresh satellite images that came to light Friday suggest that China is developing two air defence positions along the eastern sector of the LAC that will cover the 2017 Doklam face-off area and also Naku La in Sikkim, the site of a border clash this May.