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China, Nepal to conduct first ever joint military drill

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KATHMANDU/BEIJING (PTI): Nepal and China will hold their first ever joint military exercise in early February that will focus on counter terrorism operations and disaster management, a move that may raise concerns in India.

Chinese Defence Ministry Spokesperson Yang Yujun said that China and Nepal had been in "initial communication" on holding the military exercise, and that the details would be announced later.

The Nepal Army has also confirmed the joint military drills with China, saying the two sides have decided to hold the exercise in the northern region of Nepal in the second week of February, the Kathmandu Post reported.

Although Nepal has been holding joint military exercises with other countries including India and the United States, this is the first time Nepali military would be holding such an exercise with China.

"Nepal and China have been exchanging military delegations, visits and courses but such kind of drill is taking place for the first time," NA Spokesperson Brigadier Tara Bahadur Karki was quoted as saying by the daily.

"We have nothing much to add to the government’s announcement about the proposed exercise," he said.

The proposed drill named 'Pratikar-I', will be focused on counter terrorism and disaster management, according to the Defence Ministry.

While neither side has yet ascertained the number of troops for the drills, senior NA officials have indicated that it would be "in a small scale even smaller that a platoon level."

The move may raise eyebrows in India over the intent of such an exercise, the daily said.

A Nepalese Defence Ministry official, however, played down the joint drill, saying it does not carry importance in terms of strategic implications.

The new development is seen as China's growing influence in the Himalayan nation since the deterioration of relations between Nepal and India due to the protracted border blockade last year, the daily said.

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