IAF conducts major drill amid China border tension

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force, bolstered by its full complement of Rafale combat jets, on Thursday launched a major exercise covering the Northeastern region amid a fresh spike of border tension with China along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh.

The two-day mega exercise is involving almost all its frontline fighter jets and other assets deployed in the region.

Soldiers from India and China clashed on Dec 9 along the disputed border, India’s defense minister said Tuesday, in the latest violence along the contested frontier since June 2020, when troops from both countries engaged in a deadly brawl.

Rajnath Singh, said in the Parliament that Friday’s encounter along the Tawang sector of eastern Arunachal Pradesh state started when Chinese troops “encroached into Indian territory” and “unilaterally tried to change the status quo” along the disputed border near the Yangtze River area.

Singh said no Indian soldiers were seriously hurt and troops from both sides withdrew from the area soon afterward. A statement from the Indian army on Monday said troops on both sides suffered minor injuries. “Local military commanders met Sunday to discuss the dispute and the Indian government spoke to China through diplomatic channels,” he said.

Col. Long Shaohua, the spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theater responsible for the area, said that Chinese border guards organized “a routine patrol on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control” but were “blocked by the Indian army illegally crossing the line.”

For Decades, India and China have fiercely contested the Line of Actual Control, a loose demarcation that separates Chinese and Indian held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. India and China fought a war over the border in 1962.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the government was keeping an eye on the clash.

“We do strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to advance territorial claims by incursions, military or civilian, across the border at the established Line of Actual Control and we encourage India and China to utilize existing bilateral channels to discuss disputed boundaries,” Price told reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

In June 2020, clashes in Ladakh sparked tensions after soldiers fought with stones, fists and clubs. At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers died. The countries both stationed tens of thousands of troops backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border.

After multiple meetings between military commanders, some troops were pulled back from a key friction point in Ladakh, but tensions between the two Asian giants remain.

In November, Indian army chief Manoj Pande said there had been “no significant reduction” in Chinese troop strength in Ladakh. He said the border situation was “stable but unpredictable.”

Image courtesy of (Image: Indian Express)

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