Aiming to reaffirm India’s position as the lead agency in Southeast Asia for Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) and Humani-tarian Mine Action (HMA), the Indian Army would be playing a lead role in the Field Training Exercise that began in Pune om Wednesday and is witnessing the participation of 17 countries.
The multinational exercise of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Plus nations including China, USA, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore was inaugurated on Wednesday at Aundh Military Station by Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Command.
Land mines and Unexploded Ordnance, often referred to as UXO, are a big problem in ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines and Myanmar. Thousands of people have been killed or injured in the explosions till date. These explosive devices were left in the area mainly during the Cold War era. The Indian Army is considered to be one the expert agencies in the world in mine removal operations.
Speaking to reporters after the inauguration, Lt Gen Rawat said, “The participation of these countries shows that the world has faith in our Army. They know that the training of the Indian Army and our performance in the United Nations PKOs have been one of the finest and we have been the leading contributor of troops. We have world class expertise in HMA and PKOs, and others want to learn from us. We also want to share this knowledge with others. As you are all aware that the Southeast Asia is getting a lot of attention of the world and we want to be the lead agency in this region.”
Prior to the exercise, a week-long training of the trainers has already been held to deal with language barriers and other administrative issues. Along with Aundh Military Station, various other activities would also be conducted at the College of Military Engineering (CME), which is considered to be one of the nodal agencies in training for mine removal operations.
Over 300 participants from 17 Armies are participating in the exercise. The Indian Express had reported that Myanmar backed out of the exercise recently due to elections in the country and due to the problem of infiltration along its borders. Speaking to reporters, Colonel Shi Zongfeng, one of the members of the Chinese contingent, said, “I have come to India for the first time, and it is really a great experience.”
During the inauguration ceremony, soldiers from the Madras Regiment gave a riveting performance in traditional martial art Kalari Payatu followed a Khukri Dance by soldiers of the Gorka Regiment. Recruits from the Mechanised Infantry Regimental Centre performed a synchronised drill towards the end of the ceremony.