Indian and US troops stage exercises close to disputed China border

Indian and US troops stage exercises close to disputed China border
US army soldiers of 2nd Brigade of the 11th Airborne Division fires with Indian army soldiers pose in front of an all terrain vehicle during Indo-US joint exercise or “Yudh Abhyas, in Auli, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. India’s defence ministry statement said the joint exercise is conducted annually with the aim of exchanging best practices, tactics, techniques and procedures between the armies of the two nations. The training schedule focuses on employment of an integrated battle group under Chapter VII of the UN Mandate. The schedule will include all operations related to peace keeping & peace enforcement. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Indian and US troops have participated in a high-altitude training exercise in a cold, mountainous region near India’s disputed border with China, at a time both countries are trying to manage rising tensions with Beijing.

Indian soldiers were dropped from helicopters to flush out gunmen from a house in a demonstration of unarmed combat skills.

Other drills involved sniffer dogs and unmanned bomb-disposal vehicles, and trained kites were deployed to destroy small enemy drones.

US and Indian soldiers participate in a target kill exercise (Manish Swarup/AP)

“Overall, it has been a great learning experience. There has been sharing of best practices between both the armies,” said Brigadier Pankaj Verma of the Indian army.

The annual drills took part around Auli, a hill station in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The US troops came from the 2nd Brigade of the 11th Airborne Division, and their Indian counterparts were members of the Assam Regiment.

India’s Defence Ministry said the exercise would focus on surveillance, mountain warfare skills, casualty evacuation and combat medical aid in adverse terrain and climatic conditions.

The joint exercise is conducted annually (Manish Swarup/AP)

It also included humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and operations related to peacekeeping.

The Yudh Abhyas exercise has alternated between the US and India since it began in the early 2000s. It was held in Alaska last year.

Earlier editions had taken place elsewhere in northern India, but this year’s exercise was about 60 miles from the Line of Actual Control, a disputed border that separates Chinese and Indian-held territories.

The two countries fought a war along the border in 1962, and the latest dispute flared in June 2020 when at least 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops were killed in a brawl in the Ladakh region.

A US soldier learns rock craft during the Yudh Abhyas exercise (Manish Swarup/AP)

It led to the nations stationing tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along the Line of Actual Control.

Some Indian and Chinese soldiers have pulled back from a key friction point but tensions between the two countries have persisted.

The exercise also reflects strengthening defence ties between India and the US. They have steadily ramped up their military relationship and signed a string of defence deals and deepened military co-operation.

In recent years, relations have been driven by a convergence of interests to counter China.

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