Of War Games & Defence Diplomacy

Indian armed forces have chalked out a stunning round of combat exercises with foreign forces over the coming several months to use “defence diplomacy” as a tool to bolster national security as well as promote strategic cooperation.

Defence ministry officials say the 1.13-million Army alone has planned 14 to 18 exercises with countries ranging from the US, UK and Russia to Bangladesh, Mongolia, Thailand and Tajiskistan, both at home and abroad.

For instance, the armies of Seychelles and Singapore will be in Belgaum and Deolali in January for joint combat exercises . Similar is the case with Navy and IAF. Indian warships will hold combat manoeuvres with French warships, including nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, during the “Varuna” wargames on the high seas in January . “Indian and French navies and air forces have build a high-level of interoperability through such exercises… We have a strategic partnership ,” said visiting French chief of defence staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud.

The US, of course, is leading the charge in this “interoperability” game, with Indian and American armed forces holding a staggering 60 or so wargames over the last decade.

Many more are in the offing. After the ‘Malabar’ naval wargames on the western coast, the “Habu Nag” amphibious exercise at Okinawa (Japan) and the “Vajra Prahar” counterterrorism drills at Belgaum earlier in the year, around 200 Indian soldiers are now leaving for Alaska to take part in the “Balance Iroquois” exercise with American special forces.

Despite defence minister A K Antony always being eager to downplay the expansive Indo-US defence relationship, the armed forces of the two nations have set a scorching pace in their bilateral engagement . Of the 64 exercises conducted by the Army between 2001 and 2009, well over one-third were with the US.

“The US is the only superpower around… We learn a lot from exercising with them. With the vast counter-insurgency experience of our professional forces, we also teach them a lot,” said a senior officer.

Above news source: TimesofIndia

Pictures courtesy: Military photos, Getty

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