India, Russia To Hold Major Tri-Service ‘Indra’ Combat Exercise

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New Delhi: In the first such tri-Service war games, India will hold a major combat exercise with Russia this year to crank up military-to-military ties between the two long-standing strategic partners.

“The Indra exercise, to be held in Russia, will include assets and manpower from the Army, Navy, and IAF. This is the first time India will deploy the three services together for an exercise with a country,” said a defense ministry source.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, incidentally, will also be visiting Russia in his capacity as the defense minister for the Moscow Conference on International Security on April 25-26.

Though Russia has been India’s largest defense supplier for long, notching up military sales worth over $50 billion since the 1960s, their armed forces do not exercise much together.

In sharp contrast, India and the US hold a flurry of exercises every year, ranging from the top-notch naval Malabar war games (with Japan now a regular participant) to the counter-terror Vajra Prahar & Yudh Abhyas Ines between their armies. The US has also bagged Indian arms contracts worth $15 billion since 2007, even overtaking Russia in annual sales over the last four years, as earlier reported by TOI.

But India and Russia have now resolved to expand their military-to-military ties. “The first initial planning conference has already been held with Russia to discuss the exercise scenario, assets, and manpower for the tri-Service Indra. Two more such conferences will be held soon to finalize everything,” said the source.

The major exercise comes at a time when India is planning far-reaching defense reforms to usher in some much-needed synergy among the three services, with the creation of a chief of defense staff post in the short-term as well as integrated theater commands in the years ahead. It is good that India is managing to carry the two super powers US & Russia alongside!

While Indian and Russian armies and navies have been separately holding their Indra exercises off-and-on for the last few years, the first-ever bilateral air combat exercise “Avia Indra” was held in the Astrakhan region, near the Caspian Sea, in 2014.

Incidentally, during the Modi-Putin summit in Goa in October 2016, India had inked pacts with Russia to acquire five S-400 Triumf advanced air defense missile systems, four Grigorivich-class frigates and 200 Kamov-226T light helicopters, while also sealing the lease of a second nuclear-powered submarine after INS Chakra, all together worth around $10.5 billion.

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