India is quietly expanding its defence and
security links with Mongolia in a bid to monitor China's
space and military activities in the region.
Furthering these links presently are four Indian Army
colonels attending the 10-day Khaan Quest 2007 command post
exercise (CPX) in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.
Co-hosted by Mongolia and the US, the meet ends Aug 10 and
is to be followed by the third joint Mongolian-Indian
military exercise - Nomadic Elephant - at the Five Hills
Training Centre, 65 km west of Ulaanbaatar, later in the
year, defence sources said.
The two armies had earlier carried out joint peace-keeping
manoeuvres in Mongolia in October 2004, followed a year
later by a second round of bilateral exercises at the
Counter-Insurgency Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at
Vairangte in India's Mizoram state bordering Myanmar.
The CIJWS manoeuvres were attended by visiting Mongolian
Defence Minister T.S. Sharavdorj, whose arrival celebrated
50 years of bilateral diplomatic relations between New Delhi
These have steadily proliferated since the late 1990s as
part of New Delhi's 'Look East' policy and strategy to build
strategic ties with China's neighbours.
India was the first non-socialist country to recognize
Mongolia, which opened its embassy in New Delhi in 1956.
India's diplomatic mission in Mongolia commenced 15 years
later in 1971.
During Sharaddorj's visit, the two sides constituted a Joint
Defence Working Group that succeeded the 2001 Agreement on
Defence Cooperation, which included joint exercises and
reciprocal visits by military officers.
Building on the existing goodwill and recent diplomatic and
security initiatives, India plans on expanding and upgrading
its 'listening posts' in Mongolia erected after the January
2004 cooperation protocol between
its Department of Space and the Mongolian
Ministry of Infrastructure.
The agreement provides an
umbrella for cooperation in space
science,technology and undefined applications.
It also covers studies related to satellite communication,
satellite-related remote sensing and
satellite meteorology. Also included in
the protocol are satellite ground stations and satellite
mission management, training facilities and exchange of
As an adjunct to this agreement, official sources said India
is also believed to be considering erecting Early Warning (EW)
radar at undisclosed locations in Mongolia with the
capability of monitoring Chinese missile tests in the vast
surrounding desert region as well as Beijing's' expanding
Alongside, New Delhi has plans to enlarge its Ulaanbaatar
embassy by stationing additional security services and
military personnel in Mongolia to manage these proposed
assets, official sources said.
Meanwhile, around 240 Service members from 15 countries are
attending the Khaan Quest 2007 CPX, co-financed by the
Global Peace Operations Initiative of the US State
Department and the Mongolian government, focusing on
multinational peace support operations.
Other than India the participants include Australia,
Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, France, Germany, Indonesia,
Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the
Philippines and Tonga.
UN representatives, the International Committee of the Red
Cross and USAID are also present.
Taking place simultaneously at the Five Hills Training
Centre is the fortnight-long field training exercise (FTX)
involving some 1,000 military personnel drawn from five
countries in addition to hosts Mongolia and the US.
These include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia,
South Korea and Sri Lanka, all of whom
have fielded personnel.
Russia, though invited, have only deployed
observers for FTX that aims at developing core competencies
for peace operations with emphasis on improving the
multinational speed of response to situations, mission
effectiveness and interoperability.
Meanwhile, furthering its fledgling China 'containment'
strategy, India signed a defence agreement with Vietnam in
July as a possible prelude to New Delhi selling weapons to
The defence agreement concluded during
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's New Delhi
visit built upon similar earlier agreements in 2000 that
stressed greater military co-operation, sale of advanced
light helicopters and assistance in overhauling and
providing spares to Hanoi's ageing MiG series fighter
This also provided a framework under which Vietnamese
officers would train the Indian Army in jungle warfare and
counter-insurgency operations. It also provided for
bilateral co-operation between India's Coast Guard and the
Vietnamese Sea Police in combating piracy.
Reciprocal visits by senior military officers, regular
exchange of intelligence and a periodic dialogue between the
Indian and Vietnamese defence ministers were also included
in the agreement.
Proposals to supply Hanoi India's locally developed SSM
Prithvi missiles were also reportedly discussed besides the
possibility of training Vietnamese nuclear scientists in
Indian atomic establishments. But little seems to have
emerged from these discussions.
Military co-operation, however, picked up apace.
Two Indian Navy warships visited Vietnam this year and in
2005 the Indian Navy ferried 150 tonnes of spares to Hanoi
for its Russian Petya and OSA-II class missile boats.
Indian officials view the burgeoning military ties with
China's neighbours as New Delhi's attempts to strengthen
security relations with the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) to
counter Bejing's growing regional military
These moves are also reciprocated, albeit subtly, by several
"Through these alliances India is mirroring China's game
plan of befriending neighbours in order to develop strategic
leverage," former Lt. Gen. V.K. Kapoor said.
China, he said, had military alliances not only with
Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh but was swiftly enhancing
defence ties with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and even the
"India's military ties with Mongolia and Vietnam are still
at a fledgling stage and need consolidation," Gen. Kapoor
(Rahul Bedi can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org)