Russia, India to conduct joint military exercises

A joint exercise involving Indian and Russian troops this week is aimed at enhancing counterterrorism capabilities of both sides, officials said Thursday.

About 300 soldiers from the two countries are participating in the 10-day maneuvers that began on Oct. 10 at an army base near the northern Indian city of Agra.

"The exercises, which involve the destruction of a mock terrorist camp, are intended to improve the 'interoperability' of the two armies," said Brig. Deepak Sinha, commander of the India army's airborne division.

They are expected to practice airborne drops of armored vehicles, launching anti-tank guided missiles and firing artillery to destroy a simulated terrorist camp set up in the Thar desert of India's Rajasthan state.

Indian army soldiers have considerable experience in countering guerrilla warfare and terrorist attacks from years of fighting rebels in the strife-torn Jammu-Kashmir region and rebellious northeastern states. The exercises mark the first time that the airborne forces of both armies have trained together.

"We will learn from them and they will learn from us," Lt. Col. A. B. Sayyid of the Indian army said Thursday.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who arrives in India later Thursday, will witness a second phase of the exercises in the western Indian city of Bikaner on Oct. 16.

The army maneuvers are scheduled to be followed by joint exercises between the Indian and Russian navies in the Bay of Bengal on Oct. 18. The naval exercises, which will be witnessed by Ivanov and his Indian counterpart, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will include air defense at sea and anti-submarine warfare.

Russia's navy chief Adm. Vladimir Masorin and his country's top navy brass will join India's navy chief, Adm. Arun Prakash, at the naval exercises.

India, a key ally of Moscow during the Cold War, has bought more than US$30 billion (Ђ25 billion) worth of Soviet and Russian arms since 1960, and in recent years it has closely followed China as the second-largest client of Russia's weapons industries, reports the AP.


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