New Delhi,India and China have decided to conduct a joint military exercise at Bathinda, less than 100 kms from Pakistan.
The exercise, planned for the second half of the year, will be the first-ever foray of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China close to India’s western borders.
Since 2007, the two Armies have conducted three joint exercises — two in China and one at Belgaum in Karnataka. Now is the turn of India to host the PLA. The decision to conduct the exercise at Bathinda was finalised at a series of meetings held recently. The dates and ambit of the exercise will be decided after coordination meetings between the two Armies, sources said.
Bathinda is the base of the Indian Army’s 10 Corps and is dominated by mechanised and armoured regiments. A major IAF base, it houses leading fighters like Sukhoi 30MKI and the Mi-17V5 helicopters. The exercise assumes significance as it will be conducted less than 100 km east of Pakistan.
The PLA often conducts joint exercises with Pakistan close to the India- Pakistan border, the last being held near Rawalpindi in Pakistan last month.
Sources said India and China had so far focused on counter-terrorism steps. The choice at Bathinda signifies that some armoured component could be added. Both the countries are committed to expand the scope of military relations and widen the ambit of joint exercises under the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) signed in Beijing in October 2013.
New Delhi and Beijing are worried at the outcome of the withdrawal of the US-led forces from Afghanistan in June 2014. Both countries have faced terrorism from Islamic radicals. China’s restive Xinjiang province located north of Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim-dominated area. Both countries have been discussing Afghanistan and the scenario emerging in the wake of the withdrawal of US-led troops.
India and China are rivals competing for global resources. They have an old border dispute pending since 1846 when the British first tried to draw boundaries. This often leads to tense situations along the un-demarcated Line of Actual Control running up to 3,488 kms.