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TRAINING: India becomes training partner with Middle East

Posted 22 March 2021 · Add Comment

The Indian Air Force (IAF), for the first time, participated in an annual multinational air exercise hosted by the United Arab Emirates. The sixth edition of Exercise Desert Flag, began on March 3 and concluded on March 21.


The IAF participated with six Su-30 MKI, two C-17 and one IL-78 tanker aircraft in the seven-nation exercise.

Along with India and the UAE, air forces from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Bahrain also participated in the exercise, which was held at the Al-Dhafra airbase. Reports Jay Menon.

According to an IAF spokesman, “The large-scale exercise involving diverse fighter aircraft from across the globe provided the participating forces, including IAF, a unique opportunity to exchange knowledge, experience, enhance operational capabilities.”

“The aim of the exercise was to provide operational exposure to the participating forces while training them to undertake simulated air combat operations in a controlled environment. The participating forces got an opportunity to enhance their operational capabilities along with mutual exchange of best practices,” he said.

Despite the pandemic and ensuing restrictions, India’s military exercises with what it terms “friendly foreign countries” have continued unabated in the past few months.

One of them was between the Indian and the French air forces for Desert Knight 2021 in January, which the Indian Ministry of Defense had described as a “first of its kind bilateral exercise,” involving Su-30 MKI, Mirage and Rafale jets. Both exercises were held in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

But the Desert Flag exercise assumes additional salience, given that it visibly highlights deepening political and defence ties between India and Middle Eastern powers such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

India’s participation in Desert Flag has definitely raised few eyebrows especially that of arch rival and neighbour Pakistan, who used to be a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Of late Islamabad has fallen off with these nations as Saudi Arabia and the UAE deeply resent Pakistan’s wooing of Iran. While disenchantment of the UAE and Saudi Arabia with Pakistan has been growing, India’s right-wing government has actively wooed these two countries, along with Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait— all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

It may be noted here that as per Saudi Arabia’s “Vision-2030” roadmap, India has been declared to be one of the eight strategic partners of Riyadh. These are India, China, the UK, the US, France, Germany, South Korea, and Japan. Significantly missing from this list is Pakistan.

India and Saudi Arabia have formed a Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation (JCDC). Similar defence cooperation and engagements are also visible between India and the UAE. The two countries now have a Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC).


India's air force joins in training exercise with UAE. (IMAGES: IAF)

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