India-US training exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ goes high altitude this year, to LAC in Uttarakhand

New Delhi: Amid the continued border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, India and the United States are conducting a joint military training exercise, Yudh Abhyas, near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Auli in Uttarakhand.

The 15-day exercise that began on 16 November focuses specifically on high-altitude and extremely cold warfare.

Sources in the defence establishment said the exercise has been central to an exchange of best practices, methods, ideas, tactics, techniques and procedures between the two armies over the years.

Significantly, Auli is situated just 95 km from the LAC. The exercise, thus, indicates a joint endorsement against China’s aggression in Ladakh at the western sector of the LAC in the past two years.

Soldiers of 2nd Brigade of the 11th Airborne Division of the US Army and jawans from the Assam Regiment will take part in the 18th edition of the Indo-US military drill, sources said.

“The schedule will include all operations related to peacekeeping and peace enforcement. The troops from both nations will work together to achieve common objectives. The joint exercise will also focus on ‘Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)’ operations. Troops from both nations will practice launching of swift and coordinated relief efforts in the wake of any natural calamity,” a release from the Ministry of Defence said.

The last edition of the bilateral exercise was held at the Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Alaska in October 2021. The 16th edition was held in February 2021 at the Mahajan Field Firing Range in Rajasthan.

“To derive full benefit from the professional skills and experiences of both the armies, a command post exercise and expert academic discussions (EAD) on carefully selected topics will be carried out,” the release added.

ThePrint had reported in June that a visiting US Army officer — alarmed by China’s significant infrastructure build-up in the region — had said the Indian and American Armies would train together at 9,000-10,000 ft to increase interoperability for high-altitude warfare.

The vast extent of the exercises between the two armies will also include the formation of integrated battle groups, force multipliers, establishment and functioning of surveillance grids, validation of operational logistics, mountain warfare skills, casualty evacuation, and combat medical aid in adverse terrains and climates, the release added.

The navies of India and the US also participated in this year’s Malabar Exercise which culminated in the seas off Japan on 15 November. Naval forces of Australia and Japan were also part of the multilateral exercise. India, the US, Australia and Japan are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD).

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