China and India are taking part in large-scale joint military exercises led by Russia in its Eastern Military District, the two countries’ defense ministries have confirmed.
Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other countries are also participating in the exercises.
More than 2,000 troops, as well as more than 300 vehicles of various types, 21 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and three ships were also sent by China to the exercise, according to state-run tabloid The Global Times.
“As per the annual cooperation plan between the Chinese and Russian militaries and the consensus reached by the two sides, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) recently sent troops to Russia to participate in the Vostok-2022 exercise,” Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a press conference last week.
Tan added that the PLA’s participation aimed to “deepen practical and friendly cooperation with other participating militaries, enhance strategic coordination among participating parties, and strengthen the capability to jointly respond to various security threats.”
In mid-August, China’s defense ministry said that the drills were “unrelated to the current international and regional situation.”
An Indian Army contingent will also take part in in the drills, India’s Ministry of Defence said.
“The exercise is aimed at interaction and coordination amongst other participating military contingents and observers. … Over the next seven days will undertake joint maneuvers to include joint field training exercises, combat discussions, and firepower exercises,” according to a press release from the ministry on Thursday.
“The Indian Army contingent will look forward to sharing practical aspects and put into practice the validated drills, procedures and practice amalgamation of new technology through discussions and tactical exercises,” the release added.
For context: India has participated in similar exercises with China and Russia in the past, but this latest one comes amid heightened tensions over both Taiwan and Ukraine. Over the past six months, India has refrained from taking a strong stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite heavy pressure from Western countries.
In total, more than 50,000 servicemen and over 5,000 units of weapons and military equipment — including 140 aircraft, 60 warships, boats and support vessels — will be involved in the Vostok-2022 exercises, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
Russia last staged its Vostok drills in 2018, which it then branded as its “largest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union,” including thousands of troops from China and Mongolia.