With Milex 2018 India Graduates To Leading Multilateral Defence Exercises
While India has been holding trilateral exercises with Sri Lanka and Maldives & IONS this is the first lead in conduct of a multilateral exercise indicating signs of willingness to front regional defence forums.
Opening Ceremony of the Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Field Training Military Exercise (MILEX-18) was held on 10 September 18 at Aundh Military Station.
The Ministry of Defence Press Release informs us that the Inaugural Military Field Training Exercise named MILEX-18 is scheduled from 10 September 18 to 16 September 18. The aim of the exercise is to practice the BIMSTEC Nations in planning and conduct of counter terrorist operations.
The exercise schedule is focused upon learning of best practices, team building & special tactical level operations in a counter-terrorist environment in semi urban setting. Each contingent comprises of a platoon of 30 personnel.
BIMSTEC has identified 14 priority areas where a member country takes lead. India is
lead country for Transport & Communication, Tourism, Environment & Disaster Management and Counter Terrorism & Transnational Crime. Thus holding of the exercise by India is most appropriate.
The Parade of the Opening Ceremony was Commanded by Captain Gaurav Sharma, who is part of the participating Indian contingent. Major General Sanjeev Sharma, General Officer Commanding, India’s Golden Katar Division was the Chief Guest for the Opening Ceremony and reviewed the Parade, in presence of number of Officers and officials of participating nations.
During the parade there was also a fly past of Army Aviation helicopters who carried the National flags of member nations.
The General Officer Commanding interacted with the Contingents after the completion of the Parade.
The members of all participating nations also interacted and familiarised with each other after the Opening Ceremony.
A conclave of Army chiefs is scheduled on the last two days of the exercise with a debate proposed on combating challenge of terrorism and transnational crime.
This is the first time that India is leading a multilateral defence exercise of a regional grouping indicating willingness to lead defence cooperation and engagement.
In October 2017, India held the first BIMSTEC DMEx-2017. India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was the nodal agency in Delhi and the exercise included a Table Top Exercise (TTX), Field Training Exercises (FTXs) on Earthquake and Flood and an After Action Review (AAR).
There was some controversy generated after Nepal pulled out of MILEX 18 at the last minute. As per the Hindustan Times, Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli called the Indian ambassador, Manjeev Singh Puri to convey inability to participate citing “internal political pressure”.
There were varying reasons possibly for the pull out by Kathmandu with pressure from the Chinese expressed through members of the Communist Party of Nepal in the parliament where there was a vociferous resistance with the Nepal Army being blamed for taking an unilateral decision without government approval.
The last minute pullout could be a deliberate action to slight India’s efforts to create a multilateral forum for joint training for the first time.
Nepal has its own compulsions including the Communist Party of Nepal being dominated by China influenced advisories, the pull out is also seen by some as Nepal’s desire to activate the SAARC which India has been resisting due to Pakistan’s lack commitment to block cross border terror.
While India has been holding trilateral exercises with Sri Lanka and Maldives & Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in the past this is the first time that a lead in conduct of a multilateral exercise has been taken indicating to lead regional defence forums.
More such multilateral defence cooperation initiatives will ensure that India punches relative to its weight in regional and global forums and does not remain a follower of the big powers.