By Tariq A Sofi
Bakloh (HP), Nov 14 Indian and Kazakh armies today completed the second edition of their joint military exercise - Prabal Dostyk - in Himachal Pradesh in a significant step towards fostering military and diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The first edition of Prabal Dostyk - Robust Friendship - was held in Kazakhstan, a major central Asian state and India's largest trading partner in the minerals-rich region, in 2016.
The aim of the fortnight-long exercise was to enhance military ties between the two countries and acquaint both the forces with each other's operating procedures during counter- insurgency and counter-terrorism operations under the mandate of the United Nations, the commander of the Indian contingent for the exercise, who wished not to be named, said.
A platoon strength from the Third Batallion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army's and a similar strength of troops from the Kazakh Army participated in the exercise held in Himachal's Bakloh, a cantonment town in Chamba district.
Bakloh, a hill station, is located 4,584 feet above the sea level.
The participating troops from the two countries underwent rigorous training over the two weeks. Both sides expressed satisfaction over the gains, especially in honing skills in counter-terrorism operations and building mutual trust.
"It was great 14 days in India as the exercise provided us a big opportunity to gain fruitful experience in counter- terrorism operations. The exercise is a step forward in our friendship and joint work," said Kazakh Army's Lt. Col. G B Kassymbekov.
He said besides learning military skills, the exercise also provided his forces an opportunity to experience the Indian culture and make friends among the armed personnel.
"The exercise is the next step in building strong friendship between the two countries," Kassymbekov said.
India and Kahzakhstan share a long history of extensive cooperation in defence and political arenas. India was one of the first nations to recognise the independence of Kazakhstan. Bilateral diplomatic ties were established in February 1992.
India supported Kazakhstan's candidature for non- permanent membership of UNSC for 2017-18 and Kazakhstan has extended its support for India's candidature for non-permanent seat in 2021-22, according to India's Ministry of External Affairs.
Major Indian investments in Kazakhstan are in areas such as oil and gas, banking, engineering, pharmaceutical trading, mining, steel, travel agency, general trading and services.
Commanding officer of the 11 Gorkha Rifles Col. Kapil Gaur said the joint exercise was very encouraging and "we have definitely achieved the ability to conduct seamless joint operations."
He said the contingents have lived together and trained together. They shared operational methodologies, tactics, and procedures specific to counter-insurgency and counter- terrorism operations.
"Both contingents have achieved tremendous levels of synergy in jointly conducting operations against insurgency and terrorism, which is perhaps the biggest threat the contemporary global order faces, and therefore is the significance of this exercise," Col. Gaur said.
He said an observer delegation from both the countries witnessed the final phase of the exercise and the net results.
"The last two weeks were most productive in achieving synergy and interoperability," he said, complementing the Kazakhstan Army for its professionalism and adaptability as "you were exposed to the environs you were not accustomed to."
The participating Indian troops had undergone extensive training in counter-terrorism and low intensity conflict operations at the Jungle Warfare School, Vairengte, Mizoram.
The Indian contingent had also trained with the elite counter-insurgency forces to imbibe the best practices of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations with specific reference to both rural and urban settings.