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Mock militants target traders in joint terror drill

Kunming, Dec. 19: The India-China “Exercise Hand-in-Hand” is a first of its kind and elementary in terms of exposure to tactics and equipment.

It is billed as a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist drill in the unrealistic scenario of militants occupying area between the Indian and Chinese armies in the mountains.

The militants are targeting cross-border trade between the two countries that — in real life — resumed partially through Nathu-La in Sikkim only in July last year. For the setting of the exercise, it is assumed by the two sides that trade is growing. The fictitious militants are targeting traders, 10 of whom have been killed.

When the bilateral military meet was mooted, the Chinese side had shown little interest in a war game. They wanted the encounter that takes off on December 21 — “Joint Training”. But the Indians wanted an exercise and a war game. A compromise was struck and the exchange is now formally being called a “Joint Training Exercise”.

“This is a joint training for the first time between our two countries,” said Senior Colonel Tian Yixiang of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who is a director of training. “It is significant because it will increase our mutual understanding. Our aim is to strike at international terrorism.”

The Indian military brief says almost exactly the same thing about the objective of the exercise: “The exercise is aimed at building and promoting positive military relations, inter-operability and to undertake joint operations in a counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism environment for global peace.”

Although the exercise is spread over five days, the war game takes only the last two. The first days would be spent in “familiarisation”.

Soldiers of the Indian Army’s 15 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry company who are here will exchange weapons with troops of the PLA’s 7022 Armoured Recce Company.

The troops will then be “mixed up”. A platoon (about 30 soldiers) will be embedded in a company that will have two Chinese platoons. Similarly a platoon of Chinese soldiers will be embedded with the Indian company.

The two sides will be briefed on the plan of battle after each displays standard infantry tactics. The contingent commanders of the two sides will set up a “Joint Command Post” in the Kunming Military Academy (that can be compared with India’s National Defence Academy) while the troops move to the highlands south of Kunming.

The actual war game will be played out in and around Jinma village in the Yingpan Mountains. The Chinese will also deploy an additional platoon with a Type 96 tank, a Type 100 assaulting mortar and a helicopter contingent for surveillance.

In the scenario, the militants have been active in both Central and South Asia — probably a stretch reference to China’s concern over developments in Xinjiang — “and attempt to create terror on a large scale”.

They establish training camps in Chinese territory — a mock-up will be created in the Yingpan mountains — from which they launch attacks in India.

China and India, in the scenario, issued a joint statement that they intend taking all measures to fight international terrorism. To show intent, they set up the Joint Command Post. The commanders despatch the anti-terrorism units of the two forces and coordinate their moves.

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