Journal : Global Times (Chinese) Date : Author : Huan Qiu Shi Bao correspondent Hu Bofeng Page No. : NA

IAccording to an Indian Express report of September 30, the Indian Ministry of Defense said India had decided to withdraw from the “Caucasus-2020” joint military exercises to be held in Russia from September 15 to 27 , “due to the new corona pneumonia epidemic and the resulting disruption of logistical arrangements and other inconveniences”. However, the report also quoted a source in the Indian Defence Ministry as saying that India’s temporary decision to pull out of the military exercises was because it “did not want to participate in an exercise aimed at showing friendship with China at a time of the India-China border standoff”.

According to the plan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries, including China, Turkey and Iran will all send troops to participate in the joint military exercise.  The Pakistani Army is also likely to take part in the joint exercise. India was scheduled to send a contingent of 180 army, 40 air force and two navy troops. So far, China has not officially announced its participation in the exercise.

According to Indian Government sources, the decision not to participate in the “Caucasus-2020” exercise was made by the Indian Ministry of Defense and Ministry of External Affairs after considering several factors. According to Indian officials, the decision was made to ensure the safety of Indian troops in light of the new corona pneumonia outbreak. In addition, troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, neither of which is recognized by India, are expected to participate in the exercises. That could raise delicate diplomatic issues. The fact that China and Pakistan will be participating in the exercise is also one of the reasons for India’s withdrawal.

India’s Economic Times said that Defence Minister Singh and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar are planning to travel to Moscow next month to attend the SCO Defence and Foreign Ministers’ meetings in succession. The report speculates that Russia is likely to use its status as host country and its special background of maintaining friendly relations with both China and India to facilitate a bilateral meeting between the Defense and Foreign Ministers of the two countries. But the Hindustan Times quoted an anonymous source as saying that Singh and Jaishankar “currently have no plans to meet separately with their Chinese counterparts”. The person also said that the possibility of such a meeting between China and India is not at all high in view of the current differences between the two countries on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control  and on the process of de-escalation on the border.

On the other hand, a source in the Indian Government told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao that it is not yet possible to state categorically that there will not be any interaction between the Defence or Foreign Ministers of India and China during the said meeting. He said that the diplomatic and military dialogue aimed at resolving the India-China border standoff is currently at a certain impasse and therefore India is not averse to seeking higher-level political and diplomatic options for intervention.

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