India has pulled out of the multination exercise in Russia – Kavkaz 2020 – to be held next month reportedly due to participation of Chinese and Pakistani troops in the drills.

India has taken the decision amid the ongoing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.

A media report quoted a senior official as saying: “It has been decided that it would be incorrect for our troops to take part in an exercise where People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers will also be present, even if it is a multilateral drill.”

The officer said: “PLA soldiers, after all, crossed all red-lines by brutally attacking our soldiers in the premeditated attack in Galwan Valley on June 15 (20 Indian and an undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers were killed in the skirmish).”

“It cannot be business as usual with the PLA,” he added.

However, according to the defence ministry, India has decided to pull out from the exercise due to the COVID19 pandemic.

“Russia and India are close and privileged strategic partners. However, in view of pandemic and consequent difficulties in exercise, including arrangements of logistics, India has decided not to send the contingent this year for the exercise. We have conveyed this to Russia,” the defence ministry said.

The Kavkaz 2020 ‘counter-terrorism’ and ‘strategic command-post exercise’ is scheduled to be held in Astrakhan region of south Russia from September 15-27.

The decision to withdraw from the exercise has been taken after the meetings on Friday attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and Army chief General MM Naravane.

However, defence minister Singh will attend the defence ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Russia next week.

But the defence minister is “unlikely” to hold a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe.

Jaishankar is slated to visit Moscow for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting on September 10.

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