India will not send its contingent to the multinational military exercise Kavkaz-2020, being organised in Russia, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Defence Ministry said.
"Russia and India are privileged strategic partners. At Russia's invitation, India has been participating in many international events. However, due to COVID-19 and consequent difficulties in exercise, India has decided not to send a contingent this year to Kavkaz-2020," the Defence Ministry spokesperson said.
Both China and Pakistan are going to be a part of the multinational exercise.
News agency ANI, quoting sources in the Defence Ministry, said that China's participation in the exercise was also a reason for India to pull out of the multilateral tri-services military exercise. They say while India is locked in a military conflict with the Chinese in eastern Ladakh and on high alert all along the 4,000 kilometre Line of Actual Control (LAC), it cannot be business as usual for us to be participating in multilateral military exercises with them.
India and China had clashed in the Galwan valley on June 15 in which 20 Indian troops had lost their lives while the Chinese also suffered a number of casualties with scores of Chinese soldiers killed and injured there.
Sources added that Defence Minister would be visiting Russia on September 4-6 for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation defence ministers' meeting but it is unlikely that the Indian representative would be holding any talks with his Chinese counterpart.
India was invited by Russia to participate in the tri-services exercise with a contingent of around 200 personnel to southern Russia in September for the multi-lateral Kavkaz-2020.
The exercise is being held in the Astrakhan province of Southern Russia where member countries of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Central Asian countries would be participating.
Exercise Tsentr last year had the participation of India, Pakistan and all SCO member-nations.
India and China have been engaged in a territorial conflict in Eastern Ladakh and Sub Sector North (Ladakh) where Chinese troops have transgressed into multiple areas and are refusing to completely disengage in areas such as Finger, Depsang Plains and Gogra heights. Both sides have amassed over 40,000 troops on their respective side of the LAC with the induction of heavy weaponry including long-range artillery and tanks.