Exercise Vajra Prahar
The 11th edition of Vajra Prahar was conducted at Special Forces training school located at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh in March. Special Forces of India and the US jointly carried out the exercise aimed at enhancing interoperability between the two forces. Through the exercise the forces share best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning and operational tactics. Bilateral military exercises and defence exchanges are meant to deepen bilateral defence cooperation between friendly nations. The armies of participating nations jointly train, plan and execute a series of operations to neutralize threats of varied nature. Their common aim is to counter threats of international terrorism through mutual training. The navies of India and the US carried out a two-day naval exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean Region on March 28 and 29. Indian warship INS Shivalik and long-range maritime patrol aircraft P8I represented Indian the PASSEX exercise while USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group represented the US Navy.
Air Forces hold formations in LAC
Inspite of the complex disengagement process between the armies of India and China wherein both the countries have pulled back their troops and weapons from friction points in eastern Ladakh, there is no change in the status of air forces deployed there. Their level of engagement is the same as it was when the border row was at its peak. The position of Indian Air Force and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) remains unchanged. So far 10 rounds of military talks have been held between top commanders of both the countries. 10th round of talks were held on 20 February after completion of disengagement on strategic heights on both banks of Pangong Tso. Under the disengagement agreement both sides pulled back their frontline troops, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and artillery guns. According to the senior officials of the IAF, the air defence assets, unmanned aerial vehicles, transport and helicopter fleets will continue to be stationed in Ladakh. The fighter airbases within 350 km of eastern Ladakh will remain on standby and same applies for China. The situation can only change after a political settlement is reached. Moreover, PLAAF has also positioned a large number of radars and missiles in the sector. IAF is capable of carrying out day and night, all-weather combat missions in the Ladakh sector with front-line fighter jets, attack helicopters and multi-mission choppers deployed there. The IAF has deployed Rafale fighter jets, Mig-29, Sukhoi-30s, Apache Ah-64E attack helicopters and Ch-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters in the Ladakh sector.
India to get two theatre commands by August 15
Most likely, the two theatre commands- the Maritime Command and the Air Defence Command will be operational by August 15. Forming theatre commands is a progressive step in restructuring India’s defence forces. The Air Defence Command will be based in Allahabad and will control the assets of the IAF, Army and Navy. It will protect military assets from airborne enemies and will be commanded by a three-star officer of the IAF. The Maritime Command will be based in Karwar and will guard the security of the Indian Ocean Region. Apart from these two, India will be getting three or four more integrated theatre commands to secure Pakistan and China fronts. Two will be for China front while one will be for Pakistan including Jammu and Kashmir, Line of Control and International Border. Theatre command is a compact unit that will control all military assets in a theatre of war and report to a single commander. CDS General Bipin Rawat is mandated to wrap up the project by the end of 2022. Including the US and China, 32 countries across the globe have structures similar to theatre commands. China’s Western Theatre Command is responsible for the border with India. India has 17 commands between the three armed forces with complex geographical overlaps. If a conflict breaks out with China, 7 commands will come into play.
French ships visit Kochi
A goodwill visit was paid by two ships of the French Navy to Kochi. The dignitaries accompanying the ships included French Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain, Rear Admiral Jacques Fayard, French Joint Forces Commander in the Indian Ocean (ALINDIEN) and Lise Talbot Barre, Consul General of France in Puducherry. The two ships 21500 tonne Mistral-class FS Tonnerre and 3251 tonne La Fayette-class FS Surcouf ships reached Cochin Port Trust. The dignitaries then met Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command Vice Admiral AK Chawla. The visit highlighted the growing cooperation between the two navies. The ships will be sailing to the Bay of Bengal for the France-led ‘La Perouse’ joint exercise with Quad members India, Japan, Australia and the US from April 5-7.
Army’s Military farms to be shut
The Indian Army’s Military farms will be disbanded on 31 March leading to closure of 39 such farms across the country. A flag ceremony will be held for the closure at Military Farms Records at Delhi Cantonment. The farms were raised in 1889 and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) ordered the closure of the farms in August 2017. The decision aims to cut costs and better utilize thousands of acres of defence land. The 39 military farms span over more than 20000 acres of prime defence land across the country in cities such as Ambala, Kolkata, Srinagar, Agra, Pathankot, Lucknow, Meerut, Allahabad and Guwahati. After closure of farms around 25000 heads of cattle will be given away to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and different state governments for rearing. More than 21 crore litres of milk was supplied by these farms to the army, accounting for 14% of the total requirement. The rest of the requirement was procured locally. The cattle stock reared in these farms include thousands of high-yielding Frieswal cows, a cross between Dutch Holstein Friesian and Indian Sahiwal breeds. A report by defence ministry committee panel recommended in 2016 that there is a possibility of trimming the military workforce in several non-combat areas including military farms. The task of mapping out a strategy to sharpen India’s combat edge and suggest measures to reduce personnel was given to the 11-member panel headed by Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar (retd). Around 2000 civilians work in military farms and 14 combatants.