The American and Indian militaries will hold joint exercises in the Himalayan mountains in October, less than 100km from India’s disputed border with China, CNN reported. The location was announced amid heightened tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, while India and China have been clashing along their mountain border.
The drills will be held in mid-October near the town of Auli in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, an Indian army officer told CNN on Saturday. Auli sits on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, and the exercises will focus on warfare at an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).
Auli is also situated around 95 kilometers (59 miles) from the Line of Actual Control, a loosely-defined border that divides India and China. While both sides claim territory on the other side of this line, it has served as the de-facto border between the two countries since the end of the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
Fighting broke out along this line in 2020 after China objected to India’s construction of a road in its claimed territory. India said that it lost around 20 troops, while China claimed to have lost four.
Tensions have remained high along the line ever since, with India accusing China in May of building a bridge in territory it considers under “illegal occupation.”
Relations between the US and China have also deteriorated significantly in the wake of a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan this week. Beijing responded to the visit by launching large-scale military drills, cutting imports from Taiwan, sanctioning Pelosi and her family, and severing diplomatic ties with Washington in a number of key areas.
While Taiwan has governed itself since 1949, China claims sovereignty over the island. The US acknowledges this sovereignty under the One-China policy, but given Pelosi’s status as the US’ most senior lawmaker and a member of the same political party as President Joe Biden, Beijing perceived the visit as “a serious violation” of this policy.
With China’s military drills continuing into the weekend, White House national security official John Kirby announced on Thursday that the US would conduct “air and maritime transits” through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks, while the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group will remain stationed in the region.
With both sides flexing their military muscle, Politico reported on Friday that Chinese defense officials are ignoring phone calls from their US counterparts.
General Charles Flynn, the commander of the US Army Pacific, told reporters in June that the exercises would involve air force units from both the US and India, and would serve as a “counterweight” and a “deterrent” to China’s activity along the disputed border. The forthcoming Himalayan drills are part of an annual US-India exercise, which was held last year in Alaska.