| An Indian and a US soldier in a joint exercise near Srinagar. (Reuters file picture)
New Delhi, Sept. 29: India and the US military have shifted gears in joint military exercises, expanding the ambit to include training and mutual exchange of information in counter-terrorist moves that have a direct bearing on US special operations in theatres of war.
A US deputy assistant secretary for defence, Michael Westhall, who deals with special operations, today met the chief of army staff, General .C. Vij, and the vice-chief of the army, Lt General Shantonu Choudhury.
Their discussions included training in “future soldier” equipment and use of terrain in India that can hone skills of special operatives in similar ground in war theatres such as in Afghanistan. A US special operations team was in Ladakh last month in the first of such exercises.
Joint special operations are to be given a fillip. Over the next year, a schedule for six such exercises is being considered. All of them would be land-based but would include training in varying topographic conditions.
The Indian forces would be looking to using amphibious vehicles and equipment for operations in the Northeast, where riverine plains and forested tracts make counter-insurgency operations complicated.
The army would also be picking up skills in electronic and communication equipment used by the American forces in their operations. Some of the equipment has been used by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A joint training programme is to be held at an establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation in Delhi in October. Early next year, electronic warfare skills would be exchanged in conjunction with an exercise involving Mirage aircraft of the Indian Air Force in Gwalior.
India falls in the US military’s Pacific Command (Pacom) area of responsibility while the US’ main theatres currently are in the US Central Command (Centcom) area. However, units and formations of the US military are routinely redeployed among various commands.