New Delhi, September 13 (NIA): A series of military exercises involving India, Pakistan, US, and Russia are on the cards with the team ups reflecting the strategic conflicts and alliances in the Indian sub-continental region. There will also be China-Russia naval exercises in the South China Sea.
The exercises reflect the emerging strategic alliances in the South Asian region and the South China Sea.
The Sunday Guardian reports that the armies of India and the United States are all set to flex their muscles close to the India-China land border, just three months after Indian Navy sailed through the South China Sea in an affirmation of freedom of navigation in international waters.
But Indian military officials clarified that the exercises are not aimed at China but more at Pakistan as the terrain is similar to that found in the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir.
A total of 225 US Army soldiers are landing at Chaubuttia in Uttarakhand to start the two-week-long joint exercise called Yudh Abhyas, from September 14. This is the 12th edition of the India-US joint exercise and the first in an area close to the border with China.
“Interconnectivity and interdependence are the new global order, interoperability and jointness as being applied in Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2016 are the new military essentials,” Lt Gen Balwant Singh Negi, GOC in C Central Command, told The Sunday Guardian.
India’s military and strategic ties with the United States are growing rapidly. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed between US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar just a couple of weeks ago was a major step to curb firepower from likely threats.
LEMOA has created a formal platform between India and the US to mutually use each other’s military bases and other facilities. With a trilateral joint exercise called Malabar involving Indian, US and Japanese Navies in June this year, India had sent a strong message to China that it would not allow any country to control the South China Sea. Yudh Abhyas is an extension of the same message of freedom from fear of threat by forces inimical to democracy and forces backing terrorism.
Lt Gen Rajan Ravindran, Chief of Staff, HQ Central Command, said: “Exercise Yudh Abhyas-2016, the Indo-US joint exercise is a giant step for the armies of two great democratic nations to train and gain from each other’s rich operational experiences.”
Yudh Abhyas will be the first India-US exercise after LEMOA came into existence. The Chaubuttia military station near Ranikhet is situated just over 100 km away from the India-China border.
The US contingent will have soldiers from the 5th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade combat team and 7th Infantry Division of the US Army, while an equal strength of 225 soldiers from the Indian Army will be from the 14th Battalion of the Garhwal Rifles and the 12 th.Battalion of the Madras Regiment. 14 Garhwal Rifles will engage US Army soldiers in command post exercises and 12 Madras Regiment in field exercises.
Yudh Abhyas has been strategically planned by the Ministry of Defense keeping in mind the features of the Line of Control, which India shares with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control, which India shares with China. The exercise will be conducted in the heavily forested areas of Chaubattia, where the heights range from 6,000 feet to 8,000 feet. The exercise will begin with a difficult march of approximately 6 km with complete battle loads of almost 30 kg on each soldier. Then the soldiers of both the Armies will familiarize themselves with each other’s organizational structures, weapons and tactical drills.
To simulate a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment, the tactical part of the exercise will include “raid, cordon and search” operations, with the emphasis on using state of the art equipment for surveillance, tracking and identification of terrorists, using specialist weapons, sensing and neutralising IEDs and establishing effective communications.
In the last three days and two nights of Yudh Abhyas, the validation exercise will be conducted with troops being inducted by helicopters into a notional hostile area. The drill will be followed as per the UN mandate and both militaries are looking forward to the exercise.
However, authoritative sources said that “There is no question of China being the focus, it is only because of geographical features and logistics that the region around Ranikhet was chosen for this long-planned exercise.” They add that “It is the policy of both the US and India to seek to have a friendly and cooperative relationship with a major trading partner, China.”
Meanwhile, Daily Times reports from Islamabad ,Pakistan that Pakistan and Russia are set to hold their first-ever joint military exercises later this year, officials and diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
Not only that, Islamabad is also considering purchase of advanced Russian warplanes.
The joint military drill is seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries, whose ties had been marred by Cold War rivalry for decades.
A senior Pakistani official said that around 200 military personnel from the two sides would take part in the joint military exercises scheduled for later this year.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Moscow Qazi Khalilullah told The Express Tribune that this is the first time that military personnel from the two countries would be taking part in joint military drills, otherwise called ‘Friendship-2016’. He, however, did not divulge further details about the nature of the exercises or dates.
The development, Khalilullah said, reflected increased cooperation between the two countries. “This obviously indicates a desire on both sides to broaden defense and military-technical cooperation,” he separately told a Russian news agency last week.
Islamabad decided to broaden its foreign policy options after its relations with the United States deteriorated first due to a secret raid at Abbottabad to kill al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and then killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in Nato airstrikes at Salala check post along the Afghan border.
The joint session of parliament after debating the negative fallout of the US and Nato actions approved the new foreign policy guidelines that envisaged reaching out to Russia.
Based on the recommendations of the recent envoys’ conference, Pakistan’s foreign ministry also called for increased engagements with Russia.
Those recommendations also stemmed from recent developments where US lawmakers blocked funds for eight Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-16 fighter jets. The US was supposed to partly fund the deal, paying $430 million, but US lawmakers blocked it for Pakistan’s apparent lack of action against militants.
Pakistan decided to look at alternative sources to purchase the aircraft including from Jordan, with Turkey offering to modernise Pakistan’s existing fleet of fighters.
Over the last 15 months, the chiefs of Pakistan’s Army, Navy and Air Force travelled to Russia in a development signalling the growing defence ties between the two countries. The flurry of high-level exchanges resulted in the signing of a deal between Pakistan and Russia for the purchase of four MI-35 attack helicopters.
The formal agreement, which was signed in Moscow in August 2015, was considered a major policy shift on part of Russia in the wake of growing strategic partnership between the US and India.
Moscow for long ignored Islamabad in a bid to please its long-term ally New Delhi. But as a result of India’s growing tilt towards the US, Russia has now begun to expand its cooperation with Pakistan.
For its part, Islamabad is eager to improve its ties with Moscow to diversify its options in the event of any stalemate in ties with Washington. After securing a deal of MI-35 helicopters, Pakistan is also exploring options to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia. For this purpose, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman visited Moscow in July.
The Pakistani ambassador said the PAF chief held ‘fruitful’ discussions with Russian authorities but would not provide further details of new military purchases, including the multirole, air superiority fighter Sukhoi Su-35.
Other defence officials were quoted by Russian news agency as saying that Pakistan was still in initial stages of negotiation for these weapons platforms and that the military was also looking at anti-tank weapons and air defense systems.