Tuesday, May 14, 2002

U.S. begins
war games in India

About 80 soldiers deploy for
maneuvers far from rival Pakistan

By Gregg K. Kakesako

More than 80 U.S. troops, many of them special-operations soldiers assigned to the U.S. Pacific Command, have begun the first U.S. joint military exercise with India in 40 years.

Army Lt. Col. Stephen Barger, Camp Smith spokesman, said the two-week exercise, dubbed Balance Iroquois, will take place for the next two weeks in northern India near the town of Agra.

Meanwhile, Pacific Command forces also began another two-week exercise, Cobra Gold, in Thailand, which runs from today through May 28 and will involve more than 21,000 people from the three nations.

The focus of this year's Cobra Gold training will be peace enforcement operations, the Pacific Command said.

Other types of training will include noncombatant evacuation operations, maritime interdiction operations, humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism training.

Cobra Gold 2002 is the 21st edition of this annual training exercise and is designed to ensure regional peace and strengthen the ability of the Royal Thai Armed Forces to defend Thailand or respond to regional contingencies.

Singapore, which had previously been an exercise observer, is a participant for the second year in a row.

The U.S.-Indian exercise, which started Saturday, comes as India faces its latest tense military standoff with nuclear rival Pakistan since an attack in December on the Indian parliament.

Nearly a million troops are massed on both sides of the border, raising fears of a fourth war between the neighbors.

The United States suspended military links with India and Pakistan after both conducted nuclear tests in 1998, but ties have resumed, especially after they backed the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Indian officials were not immediately available to give details on the number of soldiers participating in the exercise, taking place about 400 miles from the Pakistani border.

Barger said the 80 special-operations soldiers come from units on Okinawa and in Washington state.

The soldiers have taken with them to India two Air Force MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft, which are used to support Special Forces operations.

Barger said the United States will be involved in training the Indians in weapons familiarization, infantry tactics up to the company level, day and night airborne operations, and staff planning.

In Thailand, 14,000 U.S. military personnel will participate. Thai Forces will number about 7,000 and will include elements of the Royal Thai Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Approximately 80 members of the Singapore Armed Forces will participate.

Eighteen countries will send observers to this year's exercise. They are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, China, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Russia, Sri Lanka and Tonga.

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