India’s military engagement with Mongolia is slated to become more significant as the Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh is currently on a three-day visit there. The Indian Army Chief will be interacting with the President of Mongolia and the Chief of General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces. This is the first visit by an Indian Army Chief in seven years to Mongolia.
While the Army Chief V.K Singh visits Mongolia to augment military ties, a batch of over 40 troops from the Indian Army will participate in a joint exercise with the Mongolian armed forces next week in Mongolia. India has decided to send a sub-unit level delegation for the latest round of ‘Nomadic Elephant’ exercises with Mongolia that will take place from September 15. This is a follow-up of a similar exercise that took place in Belgaum last year that saw the participation of 30 armed force personnel from the Mongolian Armed Forces.
The fostering of military ties assumes significance since Mongolia is looked upon by India as a neighboring ally. Mongolia is often referred to India as a ‘third neighbor’ as it lies between Russia and China. India has also handed over military equipment to the Mongolian Armed Forces as a goodwill step and it also provides training to Mongolian troops on peacekeeping missions. Besides, a joint working group at the defence ministry level was also established in 2006 and its fourth meeting was held last May paving the way for greater bi-lateral ties.
As for the joint military exercises like the ‘Nomadic Elephant’ exercise next week, these are likely to become annual exercises and will increase military cooperation between the two nations. A small batch of Indian troops has already participated in exercise ‘Khan Quest’ in Mongolia in July. The multi-nation exercise was focused on peacekeeping operations, an area where India is sharing its expertise with Mongolia. Earlier, the troops of India and Mongolia engaged in joint exercises involving a two-week counter-insurgency drill in December 2010. The two sides have also held exercises at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Mizoram.
India has been patiently expanding its defence and security links with Mongolia in a bid to make its presence felt to China. The diplomatic and military ties with Mongolia have materialized with New Delhi's 'Look East' policy and as well the need to build strategic ties with China's neighbors. During the Indian President’s visit to Mongolia in July this year, a defence cooperation agreement was also signed.