In recent times, India has extensively expanded its security partnerships. But will this kind of security cooperation suffice for India’s requirements?
Even as Yudh Abhyas was going on, the Indian Army began an exercise with another strategic partner, Australia. Exercise “Austra Hind” was conducted between the Indian Army and the Australian Army contingents in Rajasthan, a western Indian state bordering Pakistan, for two weeks from 28 November. Held at the Mahajan Field Firing Ranges, this was the first in the new series of Austra Hind military exercises. The Australian side was represented by soldiers from the 13th Brigade of the 2nd Division and the Dogra Regiment participated from the Indian side. The exercise was aimed at developing positive military relations, exchange of best practices and “promote the ability to operate together while undertaking multi-domain operations in Semi deserts terrain under a UN peace enforcement mandate.” According to an Indian Ministry of Defence statement, the exercise focused on training with “new generation equipment and specialist weapons including snipers, surveillance and communication equipment to achieve a high degree of situational awareness apart from casualty management, casualty evacuation and planning logistics at battalion/company level are also planned.” Meanwhile, the Indian and Singapore military conducted their 12th edition of “Exercise Agni Warrior” at Devlali, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The bilateral exercise, between the Indian and Singapore Army, began on 13 November and culminated on 30 November. According to a statement from the Indian Ministry of Defence, the exercise was an opportunity to display the “joint firepower planning, execution and use of New Generation Equipment by the Artillery of both armies.” The two armies used “niche technology and Artillery Observation Simulators during their joint training phase. A Singapore statement on the bilateral exercise said there were a total of 270 army personnel from the two armies. Speaking of the importance of the exercise, the Singapore Armed Forces’ Chief Artillery Officer, Col. Devieash James said that the exercise “allowed our gunners to train together in the field . . . For the conduct of complex and realistic training for the Singapore Artillery, we need vast training spaces, for which we are deeply appreciative of Indian Army’s long-standing support for such training opportunities.” The bilateral exercise began in 2004 under the Army Bilateral Agreement and builds on “a long history of military cooperation, with regular interactions through exercises, military exchanges, staff talks and the cross-attendance of courses.”
The exercise was aimed at developing positive military relations, exchange of best practices and “promote the ability to operate together while undertaking multi-domain operations in Semi deserts terrain under a UN peace enforcement mandate.
India also held military exercise with another Southeast Asian neighbour, Indonesia. “Exercise Garuda Shakti”, was held between the Indian and Indonesian a Special Forces for about two weeks from 21 November. The exercise, held at Sangga Buana Training Area, Karawang, Indonesia, was the eighth iteration of this bilateral exercise series. As with other strategic partners, Exercise Garuda Shakti was aimed at strengthening “understanding, cooperation and interoperability” between the two sides by “gaining an insight into the lifestyle and culture of both countries to foster military cooperation.” The exercise was showcased “another significant milestone in ensuring cordial relations between the two countries and another step forward towards ensuring regional security.” Earlier, in June, the two countries conducted the 38th Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT) involving the Indian Navy Units of Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC) and Indonesian Navy in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca for more than ten days from 13 June. This was the first CORPAT since the pandemic began three years ago. This is another reflection of the growing mutual confidence between India and Indonesia on the one hand but also evidence of India’s ease with these security and military outreach engagements. Southeast Asia was quite prominent in the past few months. India participated in a joint military exercise with a third Southeast Asian country, Malaysia in November-December. The exercise, which began in 2012, was held at Pulai, Kluang, in Malaysia from 28 November to 12 December. Garhwal Rifles Regiment of the Indian Army and the Royal Malay Regiment of the Malaysian Army took part in the exercise with the goal of strengthening “inter-operability in planning & execution of various operations in jungle terrain” involving “a Command Planning Exercise (CPX) at the Battalion level and Company level Field Training Exercise (FTX) on sub-conventional operations in jungle terrain.” A statement from the Indian Ministry of Defence stated that Exercise Harimau Shakti is being conducted with the goal of “enhance
India also held military exercise with another Southeast Asian neighbour, Indonesia. “Exercise Garuda Shakti”, was held between the Indian and Indonesian a Special Forces for about two weeks from 21 November.
In addition to the bilateral military exercises, the multinational Malabar exercise took place in the seas off Japan. The 2022 exercise also was the 30th anniversary of Malabar, which began as a bilateral exercise between Indian and US navies. Japan has been a permanent partner of the Malabar since 2015 and Australia has been participating since 2020. This edition saw the participation of India’s Eastern Fleet ships Shivalik and Kamorta led by Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet. This exercise was also an opportunity to validate several bilateral logistics support agreements that India has signed with the other member countries. Each iteration of the Malabar exercise has gone on to strengthen the understanding of each other’s operational methodologies and tactics that will go a long way in their ability to effectively address maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific. These numerous military exercises with multiple strategic partners depict a couple of different markers in India’s new approach to security. One, India’s traditional coyness about engaging in military exercises is a thing of the past and these exercises reflect India’s comfort level and confidence in engaging a number of new security partners who are critical in addressing the China problem. India’s engagement with new security partners have assumed greater sense of purpose, sophistication, and complexities in terms of the manoeuvres being undertaken. Second, traditionally, the Indian Navy was seen as the outgoing force that engaged in joint exercises with other countries but in a reflection of the changed security circumstances, India’s army and air force are also active in such military engagements with like-minded partners. For instance, an Indian Air Force contingent, including four Su-30 MKI & two C-17 aircraft, took part in Exercise Pitch Black 2022 in Australia from 19 August to 8 September. The 2022 edition included the participation of over 100 aircraft and 2500 air force personnel from 17 partner countries. The biennial, multinational exercise is hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force. Finally, while these military exercises have increased in numbers and sophistication, it also raises some questions about whether this kind of security cooperation will suffice for India’s requirements because these are still quite limited and rudimentary forms of security cooperation.
Each iteration of the Malabar exercise has gone on to strengthen the understanding of each other’s operational methodologies and tactics that will go a long way in their ability to effectively address maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific.
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Dr Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan is the Director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology (CSST) at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Dr ...Read More +