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India to Kick off Military Exercise Involving 40,000 Troops Near Pakistan’s Border

A corps level exercise of the Indian Army will be held from November 13 to 18 in Rajasthan.

Franz-Stefan Gady
India to Kick off Military Exercise Involving 40,000 Troops Near Pakistan’s Border
Credit: Indian Army via Twitter

The Indian Army’s Southern Command will hold a military exercise comprising more than 40,000 troops from November 13 to 18 in the Jaisalmer-Barmer desert in Rajasthan, according to local media reports.

The annually held exercise, dubbed Sindu Sudarshan-VII, will test the operational readiness and maneuver warfare capability of the Indian Army’s 21 Corps, one of the service’s three so-called strike corps. A key component of the war games will be the fast mobilization of the corps, testing its ability to quickly strike deep into enemy terrain with ground forces supported by air power. The corps currently consists of two infantry divisions, one armored division, and three support brigades.

“The exercise aims to validate battle readiness and operational effectiveness of Sudarshan Chakra [21] Corps in an integrated air-land battle scenario,” a defense spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Times of India. “The exercise will showcase tanks and other armored vehicles duly supported by overwhelming land and air-based fire power conducting fully integrated operational maneuvers.”

The Indian Air Force and the Army’s Army Aviation Corps (AAC) will participate in the war games with an undisclosed number of combat aircraft.

The first part of the exercise was held in the middle of October and involved live fire drills conducted by BM-21 Multiple Rocket Launch Systems, K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzers, and Rudra advanced light helicopters, next to others. The third part of Sindu Sudarshan-VII’ will also include live firing exercise held in the Pokhran Field Firing Range, Jaisalmer between November 29 and December 4.

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The principal emphasis of this week’s portion of Sindu Sudarshan-VII will integrated air-land maneuver warfare. India’s limited war doctrine, known as the Cold Start or Pro-Active doctrine, foresees armored ground offensives into Pakistani territory supported by mechanized infantry formations and air power within 48-72 hours at the outset of a military confrontation with Pakistan.

“These Blitzkrieg-style operations would heavily depend on close coordination between the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force given the pivotal role close air support and overwhelming conventional firepower would play in such a campaign,” I wrote elsewhere.

The Indian Army plans to eventually restructure a number of its corps into division-sized integrated battle groups (IBGs). This September, the Indian Ministry of Defense cleared the restructuring of the first unit, 9 Corps, into an IBG. Last month, the Army reportedly also conducted an exercise in Arunachal Pradesh with 17 Corps geared toward converting elements of the unit into an IBG. Overall, the Army plans to stand up between 11 to 13 IBGs. As I explained:

“[E]very IBG will consist of three to six infantry and armored battalions and two to three artillery regiments, next to air defense, logistical, signal, and headquarter units — overall 5,000 to 8,000 troops. Consequently, the size of the IBGs would fall in between an undersized Army division and brigade (2,400 to 3,200 troops) in terms of manpower (a division on average has a strength of around 20,000 troops).”

The IBGs will be an integral part of the Indian Army’s offensive military doctrine and are also discussed in the service’s Land Warfare Doctrine released earlier this year.