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India-U.S. to hold first war games

The joint exercises signal an improvement in relations between the United States and India
The joint exercises signal an improvement in relations between the United States and India  

Staff and wires

NEW DELHI, India -- India says it will hold its first joint army war games with the United States, in the latest sign the sometimes-frosty relations between the two are warming.

Exercise Balance Iroquois, to be held in the northern Indian town of Agra this week, comes as India is involved in a tense military stand-off with nuclear neighbor Pakistan.

America suspended military links with India and Pakistan after they carried out nuclear tests in 1998, but resumed ties after they threw their support behind U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.

U.S. Special Forces, Indian army para-commandos and Hercules C-130 aircraft will take part in the exercise, officials said.

"The aim of this exercise is training in airborne assault where para-jumping is involved. It's a follow up of our new relationship with the U.S. involving defense supplies, training and other areas," an Indian defense spokesman told Reuters news agency.

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After decades of estrangement, India has been working on closer military ties with the United States. Both nations have agreed to share intelligence to tackle terror networks.

In February, the two countries discussed army-to-army cooperation over the next three years, including military school exchanges, high-altitude and cold-water training, and disaster management.

Just last month, India bought eight long-range, weapon-locating radars from U.S.-based Raytheon Co, marking the first major weapons deal between the two countries in recent history. India typically buys Russian military hardware.

U.S. and Indian troops are also planning a joint mountain-warfare exercise in Alaska, the first time Indian troops will take part in war games on U.S. turf.

Details on the number of soldiers participating in the mid-May exercise, around 650 km (400 miles) from the Pakistan border, and set to last several days, were unavailable.

The Indian army is at the moment conducting war games in the deserts of the western state of Rajasthan and the northern state of Punjab to keep its soldiers fighting fit.


Indian and Pakistani troops face off at their common border
Indian and Pakistani troops face off at their common border  

The war games comes as thousands of Indian and Pakistan troops face off across their joint border, a build-up that follows an attack on India's parliament in December which New Delhi blames on Kashmiri separatists based in Pakistan.

The two rivals have fought three wars since winning independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The Indian government says nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Kashmir in fighting since 1989. The human right groups put the toll at twice that number.

Dozens of people, many of them Muslim militants, die daily in the Indian side of Kashmir where New Delhi has been trying to quell a revolt against its rule for over 12 years.




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