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India flaunts its strategic autonomy by simultaneously engaging Russia and US in military exercises

Indian Army personnel from a battalion affiliated to the Rajputana Rifles taking part in the opening ceremony of the ADMM-Plus ASEAN combat training exercise at the Sergeevsky training ground of the Eastern Military District (EMD) in the Russian Far East region of Primorsky Krai (Image courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Russia)

Successfully maintaining its strategic autonomy amidst the changing global dynamics, India is currently participating in a multinational joint military exercise taking place in the Russian Far East while being also involved in annual tactical drills with the United States Army in Alaska at the same time.

An Indian Army contingent consisting of 32 personnel from a battalion affiliated to the Rajputana Rifles is taking part in the combat training event being hosted by Russia at the Sergeevsky training ground of the Eastern Military District (EMD) in the Primorsky Krai region which borders China to the west.

The international counter-terrorism field training exercise, which kicked off Monday, is part of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus Expert Working Group (EWG) mechanism and involves the armed forces of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its dialogue partners.

The ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States (collectively referred to as the ‘plus countries’), to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.

Russia and Myanmar currently share the joint responsibility as co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism – one of the seven expert working groups besides humanitarian demining; humanitarian assistance and emergency response; military medicine; ensuring safety at sea; organising peacekeeping operations and cybersecurity.

The combat training event is seeing 700 military personnel from 12 participating contingents of the armed forces of Brunei, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines and Russia carrying out drills in two stages.

The military formations will first at the operational and tactical level, determine the concept of the anti-terrorist operation and then work out the implementation of assigned tasks.

Airplanes, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other equipment of the Russian Eastern Military District is also involved fully in the ongoing exercise which will comprise of a number of counter terrorism drills including destroying of terrorist groups in a fortified area.

On the same day, though in a different timezone and corner of the globe, the Indo-US joint training exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas 2023’ began with an opening ceremony welcoming the 350-member contingent from Indian Army’s 116th Infantry Brigade, 14th Infantry Division, to Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

The annual exercise’s last edition was held in Uttarakhand’s Auli last November. It is majorly designed to promote cooperation between the two militaries and develop interoperability through combined military decision making process, battle tracking and maneuvering forces, exchange of tactics, techniques and procedures.

Exercise Yudh Abhyas
Soldiers from US Army’s 1st Squadron – Airborne, 40th Cavalry Regiment participate in combative drills with soldiers from 9th Assam Regiment, Indian Army during exercise Yudh Abhyas 2022, in the Garhwal Himalayas (Image courtesy: Indian Army)

This year, both sides are practising a series of tactical drills to enhance interoperability in conducting UN peacekeeping operations with the theme of ‘Employment of an Integrated Battle Group in Mountain/Extreme Climatic Conditions’ under Chapter VII of United Nations mandate.

According to the Indian Defence Ministry, Command Post Exercise and expert academic discussions on selected topics will also form part of the schedule.

“The scope of the Field Training Exercise includes validation of Integrated Battle Groups against hostile forces at the brigade level, Integrated Surveillance Grid at the brigade/battalion level, employment of heliborne/airborne elements and force multipliers, validation of logistics and casualty management during operations, evacuation and combat medical aid and other aspects as applicable to high altitude areas and extreme climatic conditions,” it said in a statement ahead of the contingent’s departure last week.

Interestingly, the Indian Army and the United States Army are currently co-hosting the 13th IPACC, 47th IPAMS and 9th SELF, a three-day conference of Chiefs of Armies and delegates of 35 countries in New Delhi with the central theme for the forum being ‘Together for Peace: Sustaining Peace and Stability in the Indo-Pacific Region’.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spotlighted that India’s diplomacy has scaled new heights in the past 30 days from the start of the BRICS Summit that took place in South Africa before the G20 where six new nations were included as its members with New Delhi’s efforts.

He stated that finding a common ground for all member nations on the same stage in a globally polarized atmosphere was a special achievement for the government.

“The unanimous New Delhi Declaration has become headlines all over the world,” PM Modi remarked while addressing the G20 University Connect Finale programme at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi.

Also Read: With eye on China, India holds slew of military exercises with Quad members