India is leveraging bilateral military exercises to further strategic cooperation. The Indian Army is currently engaged in or has just concluded four separate exercises with the armies of Nepal, Oman, Singapore and the U.S., with a focus on aspects like counter-insurgency, jungle warfare, heli-borne and special operations, meant to promote interoperability.
The exercise with Nepal also comes at a time when the Himalayan neighbour is expected to conduct its first military drills with China.
The Surya Kiran exercise with Nepal is underway at Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, while the Al Nagah-II exercise with Oman is underway at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh. They are infantry exercises meant to improve interoperability and focus especially on counter-terrorism. Both the exercises are spread over 14 days.
According to information submitted in Parliament by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre on Friday, during the last three years India has signed defence agreements/memorandum of understandings (MoU) with 21 countries.
The Army has conducted exercises with 18 countries during the three-year period, including the current year, and Indian military personnel attended training and courses in 34 countries. This is the ninth edition of the Surya Kiran exercise from March 9-20 with Nepal. The Nepal contingent is represented by 300 personnel, including 26 officers.
One officer said the aim of the exercise was to conduct battalion-level combined training between the two armies. “Both the contingents would be working in a mixed group, which will allow them to enhance tactical level understanding of battlefield procedures,” he stated.
There is a component involving special heliborne operations in the counter insurgency environment, in which the Nepal Army personnel would be trained in basic skills of launching helicopter-borne operations.
There is also a component on the study of Left Wing Extremism in South East Asia and the Indian Army hopes to gain from the experience of the Nepal Army, including their best practices.
Meanwhile, the Army’s Para Special Forces and U.S. Army’s Special Forces honed their skills from February 27 to March 12 in Jodhpur. The exercise covered a range of activities, including advanced marksmanship, sniping techniques and military free fall.
“It was a platoon strength exercise with focus on joint exercises based on counter- insurgency and counter-terrorist operations in the rural desert terrain,” a senior officer said.
There were also case studies to include lessons learnt from operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, among others, which the U.S. has been involved in for a long time and which are of interest for India.
The Bold Kurukshetra exercise with Singapore is an armoured exercise under way at the Babina field firing range in Uttar Pradesh, involving 250 soldiers from each side. India and Singapore have an agreement that allows the latter to use the Indian Army’s facilities for training and exercises. The agreement on utilisation of facilities by the Singapore Air Force was initially signed in October 2007 and Army facilities in August 2008.