The United States and India will conduct military drills at an altitude of 10,000 feet in Auli in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, less than 100 kilometers from the South Asian country’s disputed border with China. The drills will focus on high-altitude warfare training and will take place as part of the 18th edition of an annual joint exercise known as “Yudh Abhyas” — or “War Practice.”
Since a clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Himalayas in June 2020 left at least 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers dead, relations have remained strained. Tensions have been further raised recently by China building a bridge across Pangong Tso Lake, which sits along the border—a move condemned by the Indian government as an “illegal occupation.” During a visit to India this year, the US Army’s Pacific Commanding General Charles Flynn described China’s military build-up near the disputed border as “alarming.” Asked about the joint exercises, a US Department of Defense spokesperson told CNN that the partnership with India was “one of the most important elements of our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
One important component of this more comprehensive effort involves exercises and training events and Yudh Abhyas is one such annual joint exercise designed to enhance interoperability and improve our respective capacities to address a range of regional security concerns.
Line of Actual Control
The Line of Actual Control, the loosely-defined border between India and China, emerged from an impasse over the Sino-Indian border war of 1962. The exact location of the border is somewhat vague, and there is still a division between India and China on the exact location at which the PRC ends and Indian territory begins.
The potential for conflict between China and India is one of the most significant geopolitical risks facing the region. Both countries possess nuclear weapons, and border tensions rose after a deadly clash in June 2020 in which soldiers fought with fists, stones and nail-studded bamboo poles in a bloody brawl that killed at least 20 Indian soldiers in Aksai Chin, an area controlled by China but claimed by both countries. Though tensions have since eased, both sides maintain a large troop presence in the region, raising the risk of potential miscalculation in the event of sudden and unexpected clashes.