NEW DELHI: The
on Monday kicked off a major combat training exercise along the China-Pakistan fronts in the northern and western sectors, activating fighters to surface-to-air guided weapons, even as
units also conducted high-altitude drills in eastern Ladakh and the Arunachal-Sikkim sector.
‘ exercise of Western Air Command (WAC), the front-line IAF command responsible for a huge area stretching from Ladakh to Rajasthan, comes at a time when India is all set to host the G20 summit this weekend, while the military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh is also into its fourth year now.
The aim of the 10-day exercise is to check the WAC’s overall combat readiness. “All combat assets, ranging from fighters like Rafales, Jaguars, MiG-29s and Sukhoi-30MKIs and transport aircraft like C-130Js and C-17s to surface-to-air guided weapons like S-400s, MR-SAMS and Akash have been deployed for the annual exercise,” said a source.
There will be a ‘slight operational pause’ in the high-intensity air exercise during the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 9 and 10. The IAF has already deployed a wide array of aircraft, radars and SAGWs, to make the airspace over the Delhi-National Capital Region as impregnable as possible for the conclave.
Concurrently, units from the Army’s two China-specific mountain strike corps (1 Corps and 17 Corps), each having around 70,000 soldiers and heavy weaponry for high-altitude warfare, are training in their ‘designated operational areas’ in batches. “Units from 1 Corps and 17 Corps undertake deployments and conduct exercises along the entire 3,488-km Line of Actual Control every summer,” a source said.While 1 Corps (headquarters at Mathura) is now geared towards the northern sector of the LAC, instead of its earlier role on the western front with
Pakistan, 17 Corps (Panagarh) concentrates on a strike role in the eastern sector, including the Chumbi Valley opposite Sikkim.
There are as yet no signs of de-escalation in the confrontation in eastern Ladakh, with China not even agreeing to troop disengagement at the strategically-located Depsang Bulge and at Charding Ninglung Nallah track junction near Demchok. The face-off has seen both sides deploy over 50,000 soldiers each, along with heavy weaponry like tanks, artillery guns and SAGWs, since May 2020.