CHINA / MILITARY
India should be cautious about 1st Biden-era military drill: experts
Published: Feb 06, 2021 09:23 PM


US-India Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



Chinese experts reminded Indian media not to get over-excited about the upcoming Indo-US military exercises on Monday, as the Biden administration might consider using India as a pawn to contain China under Indo-Pacific Strategy while criticize India's streaky record on race, human rights and religion.

Indian media outlets on Saturday built momentum for the drill, the first US-Indo combat exercise in the Biden era, claiming the exercise will enhance cooperation and interoperability between the two armies and will focus on counter-terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate.

The exercise, dubbed "Yudh Abhyas," will be conducted in Rajasthan, a region near the India-Pakistan border from Monday to February 21, and aims at enhancing defense cooperation and bolstering the bilateral ties, and reflects India's role as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region, Indian media reported, citing an Indian officer. 

Chinese observers said that the drill does not directly target China despite a months-long border tension. And it still remains to be seen that whether US-India ties would match or even surpass the Trump era's, in which India held a "Malabar" naval exercise together with other Quad members - the US, Japan and Australia. 

The decision to hold joint exercises in 2021 was finalized during the Trump era in 2020. India also signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation with the Trump administration in 2020. 

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Saturday that the exercise shows that the Biden administration is broadly aligned with Trump on defense cooperation with India. 

Since taking office, the Biden administration has talked about India's importance to the Indo-Pacific region with top Indian officials. However, the senior officials are not generous in using the term Indo-Pacific Strategy, according to the confidential document declassified 10 days before Donald Trump stepped down

It remains to be seen how serious the Biden administration will be on India, but it is foreseeable that the US will continue to use its defense relationship with India to contain China, which they described as assertive, Qian said. 

Analysts believe it is dangerous to be the pawn of the US. "India is not unlikely to face criticism from the Biden administration on issues like religion, race, and human rights," Qian noted.  

Although the exercises are taking place near the India-Pakistan border, it is small in scale compared to India's own exercises against Pakistan, so the overall irritation to Pakistan is manageable, Qian said on regional stability. 

Indian media reported that about 250 soldiers will join the drill from each side.  


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