India joins China, Pakistan in multi-lateral exercises


NEW DELHI: A 12-member team of the Indian Army is participating in the “Cobra Gold” multilateral exercises being hosted by Thailand, along with its counterparts from China and Pakistan.

India has been invited to the exercises as an “observer plus” country. This is in keeping with the recent trend of India’s increasing regional interoperability with a series of multi-lateral exercises on land and sea, reported The Hindu on Wednesday.

The theme of the exercise, involving 35 countries, is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The 35th edition of the exercises, considered Asia’s largest multinational drill, started on January 20 and will end on February 18.

“Twelve personnel from the engineering and service corps are taking part in the exercises as observers,” a senior official of the Defence Ministry told The Hindu.

The decision on Indian participation was conveyed to Thailand during Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visit there recently. The Thai government has said that this year, 8,564 personnel from Thailand, the United Stats, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea and other nations are playing various roles in the exercises.

These exercises come in the backdrop of increased tensions over China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and informal discussions between India and the U.S. over joint naval patrols as reported by The Hindu.

Interestingly, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief has emerged as the unifying theme among the Indian Ocean littoral states which otherwise have been at odds recently. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, India, along with the U.S., Japan and Australia, formed a “core group” to coordinate disaster relief in the region.

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