During the last few days of Mitra Shakti, the two-week long joint military exercise between India and Sri Lanka being held in Pune, discussions were held on possible terrorist scenarios and operational drills were conducted. These drills focussed on coordination and joint battle procedures, said Army officials.
The fifth chapter of Mitra Shakti has been underway at the Aundh Military Station for the last two weeks and will conclude on Thursday. An Infantry company from both countries is participating in the exercise, which is focussing on counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations.
Speaking to The Indian Express, an Army officer said, “The first few days of the exercise focused on compatibility and interoperability between the two contingents. They got to know each others’ working styles and learnt about the weaponry in use. As the exercise progressed, the focus shifted to the pivotal point of this effort — the counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations. Lectures, discussions and war game exercises were held on possible terror situations in various settings.”
The officer added, “While Sri Lanka has fought the menace of the LTTE in the past, with India’s support, we are still fighting terrorism and insurgency in various theatres. Both armies have learnt lessons, though at the cost of innumerable sacrifices. The purpose of the exercise is to share these experiences and apply them to the current global threat posed by terrorist organisations. In a joint exercise, this sharing happens at various levels, right from the leadership to the last soldier who is on the ground.”
Brigadier Alok Chandra from the Indian Army and Brigadier Ajith Pallawela from the Sri Lankan Army are the military observers for the exercise.
Earlier, while speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Brigadier Pallawela had said, “India, being the regional and world power, is our closest neighbour and best ally in good and bad times. In recent history, when Sri Lanka was fighting a cancer within… when we were fighting the terror unleashed by one of the most ruthless terror organisations that ever existed… the LTTE, India extended her fullest support in the fields of military, diplomacy and more. This three-decade-long struggle taught the Sri Lankan military very important lessons and military philosophy in counter-terrorism and counter insurgencies. Sharing these lessons with one of the mightiest of armies would pave the way for us in fighting terrorism hand-in-hand.”
Another officer from the Indian Army said, “The exercise is crucial from another aspect as well… both India and Sri Lankan defence forces contribute a lot to the United National Peacekeeping operations in conflict-infested regions. It is important that we hone our skills for those operations as well.”
The exercise also has immense importance for military ties between India and Sri Lanka, in the backdrop of the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean region. One of the upcoming exercises on the schedule of the Indian Army is one with Maldives, which is slated to take place in Belgaum.