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Nepal-India joint military exercise highlights special ties between Himalayan neighbours

India has been assisting the Nepal Army in its modernization by supplying equipment and providing training

Indian and Nepali troops have begun a 13-day military exercise to hone their skills on counterinsurgency, tackling natural disasters and providing humanitarian relief.

The ‘SURYA KIRAN-XVI’ is a battalion-sized exercise that began in Nepal’s Rupandehi district on Friday. The manoeuvres began at the Nepal Army’s Battle School in Saljhandi along Nepal-India border.

The Nepal-India battalion-level joint military exercise is conducted alternately in Nepal and India. In September 2021, the joint training was held in Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand.

A Gorkha battalion from the elite Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army is participating in the exercise.

During the exercise, both armies will familiarize themselves with each other’s weapons, equipment, tactics and procedures while operating in counter insurgency environment, especially in mountainous terrain, the Indian embassy in Nepal said in a statement.

To further enhance the scope and scale of the exercise, the contingents will be exposed to scenarios also dealing high altitude warfare and jungle warfare operations.

The training will culminate on December 29  with a grueling 48 hours exercise to validate the performance of both armies in a counter-insurgency environment.

Strategic significance

Military observers say the Nepal-India joint military exercise also holds geo-strategic significance given its timing.

Binoj Basnyat, a retired Nepali Army Major General and security analyst said that joint military exercises provide an opportunity to counter common challenges with effectiveness and at the same time provide a diplomatic passage when political convolutions exist.

Indian army troops arrive in Nepal for the 16th edition of Surya Kiran exercise

“When the global attention is shifting in the Indo-Pacific region and South Asia has significant placing geo-strategically. Challenges from terrorists, prone to disaster or risk of environmental security in addition risks of geopolitical tension are high and rising with global competition and complexities,” Basnyat told India Narrative on Friday.

The joint exercise between Nepal and India comes at a time when China has increased its military presence along India-China border.

On October 9, the Chinese Army attempted to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control in the Tawang sector of India’s Arunachal Pradesh through a face-off with the Indian troops.

The Chinese military personnel pushed back by the Indian Army without suffering any casualties, according to India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

Integral part of defence cooperation

Military exercises have been an integral part of Nepal-India defence cooperation over the years. The two have wide-ranging cooperation in the defence sector.

India has been assisting the Nepal Army in its modernization by supplying equipment and providing training.

Assistance during disasters, joint military exercises, adventure activities and bilateral visits are other aspects of India’s defence cooperation with Nepal, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry.

A number of defence personnel from Nepal Army attend training courses in various Indian Army training institutions.

The two countries have been awarding each other’s Army Chief with the honorary rank of General in recognition of the mutual harmonious relationship between the two armies since 1950.

To give continuity to this tradition, India’s Army chief Manoj Pande visited Nepal in the first week of September this year where President Bidya Devi Bhandari conferred the title of Honorary General of the Nepali Army on Pande.

Earlier in November 2021, Nepal Army Chief Prabhuram Sharma visited India where the former Indian President Ram Nath Kovind conferred him with the title of honorary “General of Indian Army”.

(Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal correspondent based in Kathmandu)

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