The U.S. and India are set to hold joint military exercises just a few dozen miles from a disputed border region with China.
On Thursday, Hindustan Times reported U.S. and Indian forces will hold the Yudh Abhyas or “War Practice” drills in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The drills will take place in mid-October.
The U.S. and India will hold the drills at Auli, a ski resort located about 60 miles from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Chinese-Indian border.
China and India have a long-running dispute over who controls what territory in the Himalayas. The LAC serves as a notional demarcation line between the areas controlled by China and India. It separates India’s Uttarakhand from Chinese-controlled Tibet.
China has increased its military presence along the LAC in recent years. In June, U.S. Army Gen. Charles Flynn called China’s buildup along the LAC “alarming.”
Indian and Chinese forces clashed in a giant hand-to-hand brawl near a different section of the LAC in June of 2020. Neither Indian nor Chinese forces fired any shots during the clash, instead throwing rocks and coming to blows with their fists.
India reported 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the 2020 brawl near the LAC. China has offered few details about its own casualties from the hand-to-hand skirmish, but U.S. intelligence officials told U.S. News & World Report that 35 Chinese troops may have died.
U.S. and Indian forces have participated together in Yudh Abhyas since 2004. The upcoming drills will be the first held together by the U.S. and India near the LAC since the deadly 2020 border brawl.
U.S. and Indian forces trade off roles hosting the Yudh Abhyas drills. In February of 2021, U.S. and Indian forces held the war games in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan. U.S. forces hosted Yudh Abhyas in October of 2021 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
A U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson told CNN that the Yudh Abhyas drills “one of the most important elements of our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
“One important element of this broader effort includes exercises and training events,” the DoD spokesperson said. “And Yudh Abhyas is one such annual bilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability and improve our respective capacities to address a range of regional security challenges.”
The announcement of the upcoming U.S.-India drills also come amid tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan.
While Taiwan governs itself independently, China considers the island a part of its territory. Chinese officials called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island last week a violation of Chinese sovereignty.
China launched several military drills around Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s visit.