India on Thursday said it would conduct military exercises with any country of its choice after China objected to the ongoing Indo-US drill in Uttarakhand, about 100km from the Line of Actual Control, and called it a violation of bilateral agreements between New Delhi and Bejing.
Asked for a response on the high-altitude drill, Yudh Abhyas 22, close to the LAC, Chinese foreign office spokesperson Zhao Lijian had on Wednesday said: “The joint military exercise held by India and the US near the Line of Actual Control in the border area violated the spirit of relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996, and does not help build bilateral trust. China has expressed concerns to the Indian side over the military exercise.”
Zhao was referring to the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, signed in September 1993, and the Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, 1996. This is the 18th edition of the annual Indo-US joint training exercise.
Responding in almost like fashion on Thursday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “These exercises which are going on with the US in Auli have nothing to do with the 1993 and 1996 agreements. But since these were raised by the Chinese side, let me emphasise that the Chinese side needs to reflect and think about its own breach of these agreements. India exercises with whomsoever it chooses to and it does not give a veto to third countries on this issue.”
Bagchi, however, kept his counsel when asked at the weekly briefing to comment on the protests across China against the shutdowns imposed to contain the spread of Covid.
He made it clear that India does not want to comment on the strategies adopted by other countries to tackle the pandemic.