India and Russia will begin a mega 10-day military drill dubbed ‘Indra 2017’ in Vladivostok from Saturday, and China is keeping a close watch at the developments. A report in the Chinese state-run Global Times states that drill is a way for India to reassure Russia that it remains committed to close defence co-operation despite ‘moving closer to USA and Japan.’
The drill will see the participation of Army, Air Force and Navy for the first time and over 400 Indian personnel will participate. Naval frigate INS Satpura and INS Kadmatt have already reached the port at Vladivostok. Russia will be represented by over 1000 troops – apart from ships from the Pacific fleet and aircrafts. The Indian Air Force may share the Russian fighter jets. The objective of the exercise is to suppress international terrorist operations under the UN mandate and achieve closer co-ordination between tri-services of the two countries.
China’s reading into the drill, however, may be slightly different and the report in Global Times says India may be looking to reassure Russia that it remains a vital defence market for its products. “With the US-Russia strategic competition escalating, India has forged a closer relationship with the US, thus provoking Russia’s concerns. That India expands the scale of the joint drills with Russia is sending a signal to Russia that it is still an important defence partner.”
The report further reads that ‘under the existing international pattern, it is impossible for India to enhance its influence without cooperating with China,’ which may point to slightly frayed nerves in Beijing as troops from India and Russia get set for a massive military exercise.