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India-US elite forces holding 13th combat exercise in HP amid continuing China faceoff

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug09’22) – As the Sino-India border faceoff continues in eastern Ladakh area with China having upped the ante by flying its fighter jets close to the friction points with Indian troop positions, India and the US have kicked off on Aug 8 their 13th `Vajra Prahar’ combat exercise involving their elite Special Forces in the state of Himachal Pradesh to further build military interoperability between the two countries.

The exercise, at the Special Forces Training School in Bakloh from Aug 8 to 28, will see the two contingents jointly train, plan and execute a series of special operations, counter-terrorism drills and airborne operations in simulated conventional and unconventional scenarios in mountainous terrain, reported the timesofindia.com Aug 8.

The US was stated to have deployed personnel from its 1st Special Forces Group (SFG) and Special Tactics Squadron (STS), while the Indian Army contingent is from a Para-SF battalion for the 21-day exercise.

“This is the 13th edition of the Vajra Prahar exercise, which aims to share best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning and operational tactics as well as improve the interoperability between the two Special Forces. The 12th edition was conducted at Joint Base Lewis Mcchord in the US in October last year,” an Army officer has said.

The report noted that the Vajra Prahar exercise comes ahead of a major high-altitude Indo-US exercise named `Yudh Abhyas’ to be held in India after being conducted in Alaska last year. The Yudh Abhyas exercises this time will be held at Auli in Uttarakhand, barely 100 km from the Line of Actual Control with Chinese occupied Tibet, from Oct 14 to 31.

The report noted that the exercises were being held in the backdrop of the continuing military confrontation between India and China in eastern Ladakh, which erupted after the People’s Liberation Army made multiple incursions into Indian territory in April-May 2020.

The report said India conducts several military exercises with the US every year, ranging from the top-notch `Malabar’ naval exercise, which includes the other `Quad’ countries of Japan and Australia, to the bilateral `Yudh Abhyas’ and ‘Vajra Prahar’ between their armies.

As part of the expansive bilateral defence partnership, the US has also bagged lucrative Indian defence deals worth over $21 billion just since 2007. The two countries have also inked four “foundational military pacts”, with the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA) being the latest to be concluded in 2020, the report noted.

Before all that, India inked a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with the US in 2002, which was followed by the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016, and then the Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) in 2018.

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