India is set to host its first multilateral exercise with regional countries next week.
The field training exercise (FTX), called “Force 18,” will comprise the ten countries of Southeast Asia along with their eight dialogue partners – India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States – under the framework of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), which is emerging as the premier venue for defense and security issues in the region (See: “What Did the 3rd ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus Achieve?”). According to the Indian defense ministry, it will be the first-ever multinational exercise ever conducted by ground forces on Indian soil.
Force 18, which will be held from March 2 to March 8, is part of a series of annual exercises done as part of the ADMM Plus. While the ADMM Plus had initially planned for two separate exercises for humanitarian mine action (HMA) and peacekeeping operations (PKO) in 2016, India had offered to combine both exercises in a joint FTX at the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials’ Meeting Plus (ADSOM Plus) held in Malaysia last March.
Consistent with ADMM Plus exercises of this ilk, the main goal of Force 18, Indian officials say, is to learn and share best practices in the interest of promoting regional peace and stability.
“The essence of the exercise would be to learn and share the best practices with the other armies of the world and display our commitment for peace and stability in the region,” army spokesman Col Rohan Anand said in a statement issued earlier this week.
While the exercises will only take place next week, over 25 foreign trainers had already arrived in Pune as early as February 23. This is in line with India’s offer to train the foreign trainers of the ASEAN Plus countries for a week to both learn about the conduct of the FTX and harmonize operating procedures as well as to address potential challenges such as language barriers. Indian officials highlighted this as a “unique feature” which has been added to the exercise this year.