India to deepen contacts with foreign militaries


New Delhi : Sending out a powerful message that politics should not be mixed with the armed forces, the Indian military is set to intensify its engagement with its foreign counterparts despite objections of the Left parties that support the government.

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On Sunday, Indian and US Special Forces will begin two weeks long anti-terror war games at Chaubatia in Uttarkhand. The Indian Air Force (IAF) also hopes to participate in the prestigious Red Flag exercise at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada next year.

On Monday, British army chief General Richard Dannatt will arrive here Monday for a series of meetings aimed at ramping up defence ties between the two countries.

Also on Monday, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh will inaugurate the 10th meeting of the India-France High Committee on Defence Cooperation.

The Left parties have been vociferously protesting the growing contacts between the Indian and US militaries, but Defence Minister A.K. Antony has repeatedly stressed that these would continue.

“Exercises with foreign militaries are meant to upgrade skills and familiarise (our forces) with the latest hi-tech weapons,” Antony said Thursday on the sidelines of the Naval Commanders’ Conference here.

The India-US drill, codenamed Yudh Abhyas 07-02, takes off from where a similar exercise in Alaska left off last month. Some 100 Indian Army soldiers participated in those manoeuvres.

The Alaska drill was conducted in an ‘Iraq-like’ environment with Indian and US troops staging a mock attack on an ‘Iraqi village’ controlled by an insurgent group and simulating roadside bombings and suicide attacks.

“The US philosophy is of shock and awe with saturation bombing of an area before the soldiers go in. This, however, does not always work as the Americans are learning in Iraq as they fight an urban insurgency,” an official said.

“We, however, still go by the concept of boots on the ground and there is much we can teach the Americans about counter-insurgency operations,” the official added.

Dannatt’s visit follows a 25-day war game conducted by India’s Special Forces and the Royal Marines at a high altitude location in Ladakh to simulate raids against terrorists holed up in mountain hideouts.

Dannatt will also discuss the possibilities of increasing India-British joint drills.

The Indian military has been engaged in a series of exercises with its foreign counterparts this year.

In September, Malabar-2007 – the biggest war game so far in the Bay of Bengal – saw the participation of 23 ships, including three aircraft carries, from the navies of India, the US, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

In February-March, a five-vessel flotilla of the Indian Navy embarked on an extended deployment to southeast and east Asia, during which it conducted drills with the navies of Russia, China, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore.

This apart, the Indian and Russian Special Forces in September participated in a 10-day counter-insurgency drill.

India also participated in the Shangri La Dialogue regional security grouping in Singapore with Defence Minister Antony addressing the delegates on New Delhi’s perception of the regional and global security scenario.