Sunday, September 26, 2021

India, Uzbekistan Conducting ‘DUSTLIK’ Counter-Terrorism Drills Up In The Himalayas

India is holding a joint military exercise with Uzbekistan to help the latter enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities as the Central Asian country is facing a growing ISIS threat. 

The ‘DUSTLIK’ (meaning friendship) exercise is being held from March 10 to March 19 at the Foreign Training Node in Chaubatia near Ranikhet town in India’s northern Uttarakhand state. This is the second edition of the annual joint exercise of the two armies.

According to ThePrint, during the exercise, the Indian Army will showcase its counter-insurgency (CI) and counter-terrorism (CT) skills, with the focus being on people-centric intelligence-based operations, incorporating technological advancements to minimize collateral damage.

It will also put emphasis on counter-terrorism tactics for urban and jungle areas. The exercise will be led by a 45-member Indian contingent, the 13 Kumaon Battalion of the Indian Army.

The joint military exercise is one of the key factors of the growing ties between the two nations.

It was in November 2019 when India and Uzbekistan had conducted their first-ever joint military exercise, focusing on counter-terrorism. The 10-day exercise was held in Chirchiq Training Area in Uzbekistan.

Why Is Uzbekistan So Important To India?

India considers Uzbekistan a key partner in the fight against terrorism given that both countries face a common threat.

In 2019, New Delhi and Tashkent inked a pact to establish a joint working group on counter-terrorism, while also agreeing to expand cooperation in the fields of defense and cyber-security.

Although Uzbekistan has not witnessed any terrorist attack since 1999, the country is dealing with the problem of radicalization of the youth as ISIS is trying to expand its base in the region.

In addition, with 64 percent of the country’s population comprising people below the age of 35, the idea of many joining militant organizations is a serious concern for the nation.

Both India and Uzbekistan share common perspectives on terrorism, transnational organized crime, illegal trafficking, and smuggling, and the latest military exercise is a step towards countering these threats.

The DUTLIK II exercise also focuses on counter-terror drills designed for the restive Kashmir region. Training would be imparted to avoid collateral damage.

Connectivity Factor 

Iran’s Chahabahar Port will provide direct connectivity between India and Central Asia. Located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman, the Chahabahar Port is integral to India’s connectivity westwards and New Delhi has made sure of investing heavily in it.

The port will also serve as India’s gateway to Eurasia through the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). In December 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual summit with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, which later led to the formation of a core group involving India, Iran, and Uzbekistan on the Chahabahar Port.

“Chabahar is a very important port. An important route for us in connectivity in the trade area, for our regions, and between Uzbekistan and India.

This was also discussed during the virtual summit between our leaders. We created a trilateral working group and to discuss the possibility of joint use of the port,” Uzbek envoy to India, Dilshod Akhatov, had earlier said.

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