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Military Exercise Kavkaz-2020 will be conducted under the sponsorship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Russia. Despite ongoing tension at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh with China and bitter ties with Pakistan, India will participate in this exercise with their armed forces.
The exercise will see armed forces of more than 20 countries carrying out military movements in Astrakhan province of southern Russia during September 15-26. The Kavkaz 2020 is also referred to as Caucasus-2020. The exercise is aimed at assessing the ability of the armed forces to ensure military security in Russia’s southwest, where serious terrorist threats persist and preparing for the strategic command-staff drills. More than 12,500 troops from the participating countries will take part in the event. Besides the SCO members including India, China, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, 11 other countries will be part of the exercise. The other nations included in the drills are Mongolia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Belarus, Turkey, Armenia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
India will send a team of nearly 200 personnel, including 160 from the Army and rest from the IAF and the Navy. The Army contingent will include soldiers and officers from the Special Forces, infantry, artillery and armored corps for the strategic command-post exercise. Incidentally, India had exercised with Pakistan and China in earlier editions of this exercise last year also as part of the SCO group.
China is likely to send an army contingent and three ships as part of its naval deployment to the exercise. There will be considerable representation from Pakistan.
Elaborating on the objective of the forthcoming exercise, officials said the aim and scope of the exercise is to improve cooperation. The idea is for militaries to prepare for joint action with units of armies of foreign states.
All the contingents will have to strictly follow Covid-19 protocols. Moreover, after a Covid test, the participants will spend 14 days in quarantine in their respective countries and will be tested again on arrival in Russia.
India taking part in the exercise with China comes against the backdrop of the more than three-month long stand-off at the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. The region also saw a bloody clash between the two armies in mid-June leaving 20 Indian Army personnel including the commanding officer dead. This clash without firearms took place after a gap of more than 40 years between the two armies.
Efforts were now on at the military and diplomatic levels to resolve the issue at the earliest through sustained dialogue. At least 10 rounds of talks at both the levels since the stand-offs started in early May have taken place but no breakthrough so far.
Though agreeing to disengage from all the friction points at the LAC, China had not pulled back its troops from the Pangong Tso (lake) and Depsang valley. Given this situation, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat had said military options were open if the ongoing talks fail. Senior commanders of the two armies were likely to meet again in the coming days, it was learnt.
As regards Pakistan, its army was keeping the Line of Control (LoC) “hot” in Jammu & Kashmir with ceasefire violations. Militants lodged in launching pads across the LoC were waiting to infiltrate into Kashmir with the Pakistan army providing them covering fire at the Indian posts. Also, relations between India and Pakistan at the moment were not good.