ASEAN nations take home enriching experience in mine clearance

The Multinational Exercise of ASEAN Plus countries, which was participated by 17 countries including China, USA, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore, began on March 2 and concluded on Tuesday.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | Updated: March 9, 2016 4:44 am
ASEAN, ASEAN meet, ASEAN countries, UXO, HMA, pune news Women soldiers from various countries at the concluding ceremony of the Field Training Exercise Tuesday. Arul Horizon

The Armies from ASEAN countries facing the problem of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) will go back home with learning experiences of the best practices in Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) from the Multinational Exercise of ASEAN Plus countries, senior military leaders from these countries said.

The Multinational Exercise of ASEAN Plus countries, which was participated by 17 countries including China, USA, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore, began on March 2 and concluded on Tuesday. Chief of Staff of the Indian Army General Dalbir Singh was the chief guest for the concluding ceremony held at the College of Military Engineering (CME). Senior military leaders from the participant countries interacted with the media on the sidelines of a demonstration of the skill sets acquired during the training exercise.

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Senior Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan from Vietnam said, “Vietnam has been facing a war-like situation since 40 years and UXO contamination in the country is very high. If we consider the rate of cleaning the UXOs, it would probably take about 300 years for us to get rid of them completely. I have confidence that with the assistance from friendly nations, especially India, we would be able to expedite the process of cleaning UXO contaminated areas in our country.”

Lieutenant General W Wachirakul from Thailand said, “We still have the problem of mines in Thailand and we are facing it since 15 years. We have established a mine action centre in the country. The experience we have gained here will be good for us and our neighbouring countries in tackling the problem.” Director General Yoon Soon Gu from South Korea and Brig Gen Sunarayo from Indonesia thanked the Indian Army for hosting the exercise on HMA and Peacekeeping Operations.

Land mines and Unexploded Ordnance, often referred to as UXOs, are a big problem in ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar. Thousands of people have been killed or injured in the explosions till date. These explosive devices have were left in the area mainly during the Cold War era. Indian Army is considered to be one the expert agencies in the world in mine removal operations.

Over 80 observers including 28 Foreign Services Attaches of participating and non-participating countries witnessed the training demonstrations at CME and Aundh Military station. When asked about the take-away for the Indian Army from the exercise, Maj Gen Ashok Narula said that India was hosting an exercise of this scale for the first time and these efforts would nourish confidence-building measures among participating countries.

The demonstration was followed by an Exercise Debriefing, wherein contingent heads of all ASEAN Plus countries brought out the lessons learnt, experiences shared, expertise gained and the way ahead. Maj Gen Narula in his summing up address complimented each of the participants and trainers for displaying professional military skills of the highest order.

Addressing the gathering at the concluding ceremony, Army chief General Dalbir Singh said, “The exercise gave us all an excellent platform to introspect country-specific practices in peacekeeping operations and evolve common understanding towards handling complex situations. The menace of landmines haunts many Southeast Asian Countries. This in turn has adversely affected the security and economic development of the region. ASEAN member states, especially Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have made substantial progress towards disposal of these Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs).”