On the eve of the Russian Air Force Day on 12 August 2005, Vladimir Mikhailov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force announced that the Indian and Russian militaries would undertake joint counter-terrorism exercises codenamed "IndRo-2005", in India during October 2005. It plan is to hold the exercises on an annual basis. Vladimir Mikhailov also spoke about the first Russian-Chinese counter-terrorism exercises codenamed "Peace Mission-2005", held from August 18 to 25, 2005, off the East Russian seacoast and Shandong Peninsula in northeastern China.
Peace Mission 2005 has recently completed eight days of joint manoeuvres in which 10,000 military personnel from China and Russia participated. The exercises had three components: (a) Focus on counter-terrorism (b) Offshore blockades, amphibious landings, and evacuations, and (c) Live-fire exercises and joint command procedures.
Peace Mission 2005 was held under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the six-nation security group designed to help stabilize the Central Asian republics and follows previous SCO counter-terrorism exercises. Besides, from the Russian and Chinese perspective, the two countries have so far tolerated the US military presence in Central Asia and are waiting to see their backyard free of US presence in Central Asia and Afghanistan. These developments have shaped and perhaps helped spur this show of force and friendship by Russia and China.
The exercises are symbolic of the gradual Sino-Russian reconciliation after decades of rivalry. Interestingly, at about the same time, the US and Japan had engaged in military manoeuvres called JASEX, which come on the heels of statements from the Pentagon indicating an increased concern over the modernization of China's military.
Peace Mission 2005 had three purposes. From both Beijing's and Moscow's perspective, the manoeuvres meant to put the United States on notice that it has military competitors in the Western Pacific. For Russia, the event was to display its military-industrial complex to the Chinese, who continue to look for modern military hardware. While from the Chinese point of view, the display of force was meant to signal to the Taiwanese that Beijing would use force if Taiwan declared independence and naval exercises were a clear indicator of the contents of the exercises as most of the SCO members are landlocked.
Peace Mission 2005's reverberations have been felt in India too. India has watched with great interest the rise in Chinese military spending and the expanding Russian origin military inventory, particularly the navy. Interestingly, several Russian origin military assets like Kilo class submarines and Su-27 fighters find an important place in the inventories of both China and India. Analysts believe that Russia must be careful not to supply similar military hardware to rivals. This probably has encouraged the Indian Navy to reconsider its future acquisitions from Western sources.
However, New Delhi is an important component of the Russia's strategic calculus. Despite the diversification of Indian military weapons procurement (France, UK, Germany, Israel and South Africa), the bilateral Long-Term Integrated Military Technical Cooperation Agreement of 1994, has endured. About 70 per cent of Indian naval hardware is of Russian origin. The two sides must now engage in enhancing the military cooperation by exploring newer areas of international security.
Joint exercise by the Indian and Russian Navy is scheduled for later this year when the Russian Navy visits the Indian Ocean after a gap of two years. In 2003, the Russian naval detachments engaged in a number of exercises with the Indian Navy. The exercises began off Socotra, a Yemeni island off the Horn of Africa. Socotra is strategically located along the sea-lane between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov had made the proposal for joint naval exercises in 2002, and New Delhi had agreed to the offer keeping in mind the long and enduring strategic military relationship. According to the Russian defence ministry, the aim of the naval exercises is to strengthen cooperation, trust and mutual understanding between two naval powers and contribute to regional stability.
This Indo-Russian initiative will have to be juxtaposed with the emerging Indo-US naval cooperation that has witnessed a qualitative and quantitative change in its contents. From the Indian Navy's perspective, joint naval exercises are meant to improve transparency, establishing common procedures to address problems related to maritime disorder, support disaster relief as was exhibited during the tsunami, search and rescue at sea and support UN Peacekeeping operations. This appreciation has been accepted among most regional navies and in turn, they are contributing to regional security and stability in their own way.