January 26, 2020
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To Strike Supersonic Friendships

To Strike Supersonic Friendships
The Indian air force will test with the best this summer in air exercises that include the big boys of NATO. It is the first time that India has been invited to participate in multi-nation exercises with the US, UK, Germany, Japan and South Korea to be held in Alaska in July. Codenamed Cope Thunder ’04, the IAF will show up in strength—nearly 170 pilots and technical staff will participate in the exercise. The IAF will be flying its Jaguars for the first time in an overseas exercise. The planes will do their first transatlantic flight of 20,000 km with a break or two along the way. Ditto for the heavy-lift planes and the tankers, which do air-to-air refuelling.

Says an Indian official: "We’ll be planning together, executing together and trying to understand each other." Although Indian officials are calling it a "coalition exercise", others say that India is being wooed by the US to establish closer military ties. While there are many firsts in the military bash, the most interesting are the political implications. The invitation itself is significant. Given the recurring friction between the US and France over how to handle, expand and hone nato’s future role, Washington is building new allies who can be called in to help. It is no secret that the Pentagon would like India to take on more responsibilities on the world stage, especially in light of New Delhi’s desire to be a global player.

The Pentagon would like to develop "inter-operability" or the ability for the two sides to work their equipment and systems together. Currently, there is little inter-operability because India uses mostly Russian equipment. There is a growing realisation that India could be a vital ally of the future, both militarily and politically.

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