India and China plans to hold an annual Hand-in-Hand(HiH) combat exercise at Umroi, near Shillong, Meghalaya in December 2019. The “planning conference” for this 8th edition of the two-week long HiH exercise, which will be held at Umroi near Shillong in Meghalaya, is slated for August. “The conference will fix the dates and modalities for the exercise, which will focus on transnational counter-terror operations, establishment of a joint command post, joint combat drills and HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) missions,” said an official.
Even as the two countries discuss the “operationalization” of the top-level hotline between their militaries, the two armies are also working to reduce and manage troop confrontations along Line of Actual Control (LAC), with better implementation of CBMs, additional border personnel meeting (BPM) points and greater interaction between local commanders on the ground.
Bilateral border tensions have certainly reduced since the 73-day troop confrontation in the Bhutanese territory of Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction in June-August 2017, which saw the two armies move additional infantry battalions, tanks, artillery and missile units towards the border.
But though the two armies disengaged from the face-off site after hectic diplomatic parleys, the People’s Liberation Army has constructed military infrastructure and helipads as well as permanently stationed around 600-700 troops in north Doklam, as was earlier reported by TOI.
The rival troops also continue to aggressively patrol to lay claim to the 23 “disputed and sensitive areas” along the LAC, stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, which witnesses frequent “transgressions and troop face-offs” due to “differing perceptions” of the unresolved boundary.
The joint HiH exercise, touted as an important confidence-building measure between the world’s two largest armies, was held for the first at Kunming (China) in 2007. But after the 2nd edition at Belgaum in 2008, the exercise was put on hold due to diplomatic spats over stapled visa and other issues in 2009-2010.
The exercise was finally resumed in 2013, with the 3rd edition being held at Miaoergang in China. Though the 6th edition was held in Pune in 2016, the exercise was again cancelled in 2017 due to the Doklam stand-off. The 7th edition was finally held in the Chengdu region of China in December 2018.
In the exercise, India and China will be focusing on counter-terrorism operations, human assistance and disaster management.
The countries will discuss the operationalization of the high level communications between their militaries.
The exercise aims to manage the troop confrontations along Line of Actual Control (LAC) by implementing better CBMs, additional border personnel meeting (BPM) points and greater interaction between local commanders on the ground.
Around 120 troops from each side will be participating in the exercise. The complete plan of the drill will be planned out in August 2019 at the planning conference.
The Joint Military Exercise Hand-in-Hand was initiated in 2007 in Kunming,China. The 2nd exercise was held in Belgaum, Karnataka. HiH was dropped after the 2nd edition. The exercise was then resumed in 2013, when both the countries suspended their military ties because of a staple visa row.
In 2017, the exercise was not held because both the Armies were locked in a 73-day stand-off at Doklam in Sikkim sector. In June-August 2017, the bilateral border tensions were reduced and the two armies moved to additional infantry battalions, tanks, artillery and missile units towards the border.
In April 2018, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held an informal summit at Wuhan. The summit aimed to improve relations between the two countries. Then again the exercise resumed in December 2018. The 7th edition of the exercise was held in Chengdu, China.