India’s military: training with France in mountain warfare

India, France perfect counter-insurgency warfare skills

21 October 2011,

By N.C. Bipindra, IANS

Chaubatia (Uttarakhand) : With terrorism and insurgency becoming a global threat, India and France Friday completed in a mountainous forest terrain setting their first joint army exercise to fight the twin menace, perfecting the art of using new techniques such as paragliders for troop insertion.

The exercise was carried out in a simulated setting in which troops of two friendly nations team up to aid a third friendly country in fighting their insurgency being fanned by a fourth inimical neighbour – a situation similar to Afghanistan in many ways where an international security force is fighting the Taliban, which has support from across the eastern border.

Christened Shakti-2011, the exercise witnessed participation from 50 troops each from French Army’s 13 Mountain Battalion under their 27 Mountain Infantry Brigade and Indian Army’s 2 Bihar Regiment from the 99 Mountain Brigade, which is part of the 6 Mountain Division, in charge of protecting India’s borders in Uttarakhand along China.

The fortnight-long exercise culminated with a display of the respective skills to search and destroy insurgent camps in a mountain terrain, set with the Ranikhet hills as the backdrop, and capture of the leaders of the insurgency force.

The troops from the Indian and French armies participating in the exercise, which also witnessed the involvement of Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopters, were mixed into teams that destroyed the insurgent hideouts.

But the most interesting aspect of the exercise was the use of paragliders by the French troops, who taught the use of these flying kits to get fully armed men in tactically important spots during the counter-insurgency operations to achieve surprise against the enemy troops.

“This is a new technique which the French troops have been practicing over the last decade. The paragliders particularly come in handy for stealthily inserting troops in enemy territory in good weather conditions, but not during bad weather. The latest in this technique is the use of paramotors to land troops in all-weather condition,” the French Army’s 27 Mountain Infantry Brigade commander, Brigadier General Herve Wattecamps, told reporters.

His troops were in Afghanistan as part of the NATO’s International Security Force before reaching India for the exercise. For Shakti-2011, the French did not bring any of their weapons – the FAMAS being their standard rifle – but used the Indian Army’s INSAS service rifle and the AK-47.

The Chaubatia hills last October hosted an India-Russia joint exercise that was larger in size with over 150 troops from each side participating.

The Indian Army’s 6 Mountain Division commander, Major General Rajesh Arya, who witnessed both the exercises with the Russians and the French, said there was not much of a difference in the scope of the two, though the troops were fewer this year.

“The new thing the Indian Army takes away from the exercise with the French is their technique of using paragliders. Our troops though are adept in handling paramotors already,” Arya said.

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