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US-India joint military exercise begins in Rajasthan

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After the recent week-long Indo-French military exercise in Jodhpur, the Indo-US joint training exercise named Yudh Abhyas -20 commenced from Sunday at the Mahajan Field Firing Ranges in Thar desert near Bikaner.

The Mahajan Field Firing Ranges and the Pokhran Field Firing Ranges offer unmatched unique facilities for desert warfare.  The Indo-US joint exercise is a regular feature, but could not be held last year because of COVID-19.

The contingent of 270 US soldiers arrived at Suratgarh in a special aircraft and the contingent moved to Mahajan Field Firing Ranges.

Over 500 soldiers from the Indian and the US armies will carry out war-fighting drills in a combined operational environment and exchange expertise on conventional, unconventional and hybrid threats at the site.

Sixteenth edition

Started in 2004, Yudh Abhyas-20 is the sixteenth edition in the series of bilateral exercises under this banner.  The last edition of the joint exercise was held in Seattle, USA.  The joint exercise would focus on counter-terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate.

“During the exercise, participants will engage in missions ranging from joint planning, operations, joint tactical drills and will provide field commanders and troops an opportunity to interact with each other in professional matters.  The exercise will contribute immensely in promoting bilateral Army to Army relations, enhance interoperability, and exchange best practices and experiences between the Indian Army and the US Army. Yudh Abhyas is one of the largest running military training and defence cooperation endeavours between India and the US” said a defence spokesperson.

Indication of steady Indo-US relations

The joint exercise is another step forward in the growing military to military cooperation between two countries, indicating steady growth in India-US relations.  The joint bilateral exercise is indicative that both India & the US understand the common threat of terrorism and stand shoulder to shoulder in countering the same.

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The ‘Yudh Abhyas’ exercise is taking place at a time both the countries have renewed their resolve to further expand strategic and defence cooperation to effectively deal with common challenges including China’s aggressive military posturing in the Indo-Pacific region.

The drill comes nearly two-and-a-half months after India carried out the Malabar naval exercise with the US, Japan and Australia, which are the member nations of the Quad or Quadrilateral coalition.

Strengthening defence ties

The Indo-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years. In June 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner”.

The two countries have also inked key defence and security pacts over the past few years, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provides for deeper cooperation.

The two sides have also signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India.

In October last year, India and the US sealed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties. The pact provides for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.

 

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