An American soldier fires an INSAS rifle and says approvingly: “I like it…it’s good.” Indian army jawans aim American rifles at targets, guided by US trainers.
These are snapshots from the “Yuddh Abhyas” – one of the longest running military exchanges between India and the US. This year, it’s being held at the US Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington at a time America’s Defence Secretary James Mattis, a decorated war veteran and close Trump aide, is in Delhi, meeting top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
The Yudh Abhyas started on September 14 and ends tomorrow. The exercises are one of the largest running military training and defence corporation programmes between the two countries. Earlier today, Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Our military-to-military engagement continues to grow. In our talks today, we agreed to explore additional, specialised exercises.”
The exercises in Washington are the 13th edition of the joint event hosted alternately by the two countries.
According to the Defence Ministry, “the exercises provide an opportunity to the armed forces of both countries to train in an integrated manner at the battalion level with joint planning at the brigade level.”
Multiple scenarios are being rehearsed at Yuddh Abhyas 2017, with both sides keen to learn about each other’s organisational structure and battle procedures. The government says this will enable Indian and US forces to work together “in a higher degree of jointmanship” and meet any crisis across the globe.
Yuddh Abhyas is the operational end of the increasingly close military relationship between India and the US. According to the US Secretary of Defence, this is “a time of strategic convergence. As India takes its rightful place at the global table, it will find the US to be a steadfast friend and partner.”
A part of that strategic convergence is learning from each nation’s experiences in planning operations which involve a variety of threats. Though India insists that the joint exercise is taking place in an operational setting under a pretend-UN mandate, the growing closeness of the armed forces and extremely complex military exercises mean that the prospect of the two working together in an international scenario cannot be ruled out.