India's National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Pune, befittingly located near the Sinhgadh Fort famous for the attack against the Mughals in which Shivaji and
his troops stealthily scaled its steep walls using monitor lizards, is one of the world's best training institutes. Irrespective of India's status during the Cold War, the Academy was and remains amongst the best destinations for defence training. Many of its foreign alumni have headed or risen to high ranks in their respective armed forces. Indian defence training institutes have also been unique in hosting students of adversary countries. For instance, the Iraqi and Iranian students trained here together even through the years of their conflict.
There are many other training establishments of India's Armed Forces, which have been sought-after by not only developing but also developed nations. But nothing compares with the beeline that foreign militaries are making to train with Indian Armed Forces since 9/11 and the Tsunami. After 9/11 terrorist attack sponsored by or related to Osama bin Laden and Pakistan, on land and on the high seas (attacks on USS Cole and a French ship), several nations have realized the advantage, or even the necessity, of training with Indian forces. The tsunami showcased India's vast strategic maritime reach and its capability to manage one of the busiest and most crucial corridors of sea traffic. A capable and well trained Indian Navy and Coast Guard that ‘silently’ served the nation even when governments of the day were ‘sea-blind, land-locked and northwards fixated’ enabled this.
After 9/11, the trend of foreign students coming for training has changed from small strength, short duration exercises to ever-larger numbers exercising for longer periods. Indian Army's Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte, Mizoram became well known after the US Army sent an infantry company (about 120 soldiers) to practice procedures established by the Indian Army in "fighting the guerilla like a guerilla". From this principle evolved methods to combat terrorists. It was quite an experience for the US soldiers, elaborately equipped with modern weapons, to train with their Indian counterparts roughing it out with indigenous small arms and few gizmos.
2007 saw a new high in dimension and scope of joint exercises. Rear Admiral Svend-Erik Estellon, Training Director, French Joint Services Defence College, who headed a 115 member delegation said during his visit: "India is on everybody's map around the world. The officers, among whom are future chiefs of the French military, will attempt to figure out whether India is a regional or world power, judging it on the basis of its military clout, economic muscle and governance standards." Indian and French Navies have been conducting 'Varuna' joint exercises since 2001, gradually increasing the level and extent, which this year amounted to a total of ten ships, two submarines, 60 aircraft and 5,000 sailors / air crew.
Exercise Indradhanush-2 with UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) marked 75 years of Indian Air Force. 60 years after the British left India, the two air forces flew together. The exercise comprised of mixed missions where RAF F3 Tornados, Hawks and Typhoons were packed together with IAF Su-30 MKIs. The sorties simulated combat situations of destroying well-defended, high value assets on ground, and in air. The exercise reached its crescendo with a highly complex scenario - a 6 VS 6 aerial combat involving 4 Su-30 MKIs, 4 F3 Tornadoes, 2 Typhoons and 2 GR9 Sea Harriers of Royal Navy. Also airborne were an IL-78 MKI air-to-air refueller and an E3D Sentry AWACS aircraft in the vicinity of the exercise.
The widely reported Indo-US Exercise Malabar-7 was also the largest so far. Ships from India, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and the US practiced various procedures for inter-operability in Bay of Bengal. Aircraft carriers USS Kitty Hawk and USS Nimitz sailed with Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Virat, besides Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers JS Yuudachi and JS Oonami, Singapore Navy’s frigate RSS Formidable, Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Adelaide, Indian Navy destroyers INS Ranvijay and INS Ranjit, and frigate INS Brahmaputra, US guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Higgins, and attack submarine USS Chicago.
Exercise Indra-07 between Russia and India was a sequel to Indra-05, which was the first ever-joint airborne exercise between the two nations in October 2005 in Rajasthan. Indra-07's theme was counter-terrorism with special airborne forces of both countries jointly planning and conducting air and ground maneuvers to neutralize concentration of international terrorists in a third country, under a
UN mandate. After Indra-7 in the icy plains of Pskov, Indian troops headed to Alaska for the next round of 'Yudh Abhyas' series of joint training maneuvers with the US
Army on September 24, 2007. A company level force of Indian soldiers, with a 'special forces component', participated in a simulated anti-terror drill with as
many as 700 US soldiers at the Donnelly training area in Alaska.
Indian and Singapore armies held joint artillery exercises at Deolali, Maharashtra, in October 2007. The Singapore Army was represented by a 100-member contingent. Both countries also signed an agreement on a long-term arrangement for conducting joint training and exercises between their air forces.
The last exercise of 2007 was the first ever between the Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), held in December, a month after the first ever Annual Defence Dialogue in China. Considering the tension that has marked Sino- Indian relations owing to frequent Chinese claims and incursions by Chinese troops into Arunachal Pradesh and some other parts of Indian territory, this exercise was important. While the two navies have had some small exercises and made port calls since 2000, the exercise between the armies came at a time when diplomacy and differences between the two nations coexisted. In accordance with the Indo-China Memorandum of Understanding 2006, Exercise "Hand in Hand 2007" was held in Kunming on 20 December. Based on the theme of counter terrorism, the 5-day exercise involved armed reconnaissance company of the PLA and an equivalent strength of Indian troops. The exercise included establishment of a joint command post, joint battle decision-making and conduct of anti terrorism drills. A sizeable contingent of Chinese media covered this exercise.
There are many other countries desiring joint exercises with India's Armed Forces, or assistance in conducting training programmes for their forces. Despite their multifarious operational commitments, Indian Armed Forces have not disappointed any of their counterparts elsewhere in the world.