Indo-US combat drill kicks off in Rajasthan next week

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New Delhi, Feb 5 (PTI) Troops 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 a two-week exercise in Rajasthan beginning Monday.

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 US Embassy said around 250 soldiers from each side will participate in the exercise from February 8-21 at Mahajan field firing range in Rajasthan.

'This annual training exercise enhances combined interoperability capabilities through training and cultural exchange, which foster enduring partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region though common defence objectives,' it said in a statement.

The embassy said a field training exercise will involve company-strength elements from each nation exercising combined, fundamental war-fighting skills to enhance combined operational capacity.

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.

The US embassy said the 'Yudh Abhyas' exercise provides excellent opportunities for professional and cultural exchanges that strengthen partnership between the two armies through shared learning and training.

'Training commences with expert academic exchanges and professional development workshops that focus on training at the corps-level and below; combat against conventional, unconventional and hybrid threats; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,' it said.

It said a 'command post exercise' will focus on UN peacekeeping operation tasks in a combined military setting.

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 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 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. PTI MPB ZMN