SHILLONG, June 17 - In just over six months, the �hand-in-hand� joint military exercise of India and China, conducted at Umroi, ironically turned into a brutal �hand-to-hand� fight-unto-death on the actual battlefield.
The 14-day joint military exercise at the Joint Training Node, Umroi, had begun on December 7 last year and both the armies had then underlined the need for �peace and tranquillity in the border areas�.
There were 130 People�s Liberation Army (PLA) men from the Tibet Military Command and an equal number of Indian Army personnel from the Kumaon Regiment in the joint military exercise.
Incidentally, the Galwan Valley where the brutal fight occurred on June 16, in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives, is an area of operation under the Tibet Military Command of the PLA.
�We have agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential for smooth development of our (Indo-China) relations,� Major General Deepak Mehra, General Officer Commanding, Red Horns Division, had said during the inauguration of the exercise.
Maj Gen Mehra said the joint activities would deepen people-to-people contact between the armed forces, legislatures, businesses, academics, cultural as well as youth organisations.
The Indian Army officer had said that the joint military exercise was an �opportunity to evolve� by mutual sharing of experiences and imbibing the best practices.
Even before the start of the exercise, the unprofessional behaviour of the PLA came to the fore when one of its soldiers, who was doubling as a journalist, lost his cool and shoved at Indian journalists during a media briefing.
The PLA soldier, who also served as a cameraperson for the China Central Television, lost his cool when journalists were jostling for space during the briefing by Colonel KJ Singh representing the Indian contingent and Colonel Hu Chunguang of the PLA.
An Indian colonel later pacified the PLA soldier so that he could work in his own space. Incidentally, the Joint Training Node, Umroi, also hosted personnel of the Bihar Regiment in February this year. The Bihar Regiment had participated in a similar joint exercise with the Bangladesh Army.