Tri-service Indo-Russo military exercise to include more than 300 soldiers and multiple warships and aircraft

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The Indian armed forces are mandated to send about 350 soldiers, a multi-role stealth frigate, an anti-submarine corvette and multiple aircraft for a major military exercise with Russia to be held in Vladivostok from October 19 to 29. The joint military exercise has been called as Operation Indra. This would be the first time where India would deploy assets from all its three services – the army, navy and air force – to improve military alliances with Russia which is also incidentally India’s largest arms provider since the Cold War era.

India in a big deviation from its Cold War foreign policy aims has been holding multiple military exercises with the United States recently, from the Malabar naval exercises which also included Japan to the counter-terrorism exercises called Vajra Prahar and Yudh Abhyas between their land forces. After the large scale, Malabar naval war games in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in July the Indian and US naval forces will now carry out the joint Yudh Abhyas counter-terrorist exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the United States from September 14 to 27.

Interestingly, the United States is a major arms contractor to the Indian armed forces with arms deals over $15 billion since the ten years, even surpassing Moscow in yearly weapons transactions over the last four years. However, in a prominent return for Russia when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Goa in 2016, India signed deals to buy five S-400 advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, four Grigorivich-class frigates and two hundred Kamov-226T light choppers and also finalizing the lease of another nuclear submarine after INS Chakra, totaling around $10.5 billion.

Experts claim that the Indra war games main objective will be regarding tri-service coordination in an empirical threat situation along with establishment and operation of joint command and control centers. An unnamed official said the two militaries would also learn and adapt each other’s “doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures for joint operations”. The ultimate planning for the exercise would be announced around mid-September.

These war games come at a point when India is also considering long term military reforms to bring in some much required cooperation and coordination among the army, navy and air force. Also in the works is the establishment of an integrated Chief of Staff for all three services to better coordinate all three services in the future.