Russia and India plan to hold three “big” joint military drills this year. Head (Press Service) of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Eastern Military District Captain (1st Rank) Roman Martov confirmed the news on Thursday, saying that the two countries decided to hold three joint military exercises later this year. He also said that their dates would be finalised in May.

Addressing a press conference in Moscow, Captain Martov stressed that India and Russia signed a joint protocol in Vladivostok during the first planned conference on ‘Indra-2016’ joint exercises. “This year, troops from the Eastern Military District plan to participate in three large exercises with the Indian Armed Forces, which include the ‘Indra-Neva-2016’ with the Pacific Fleet, ‘AviaIndra-2016’ with the participation of the Air Force and air defence systems, and ‘Indra-2016’,” he told the media.

Indra is a bi-annual Russian-Indian joint naval exercise that includes live firing drills, anti-submarine operations, air defence training, counter piracy, anti-terrorist and counter drug smuggling operation drills. The exercise has been conducted by the two countries since 2003. The Sergeyevsky firing range in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye territory will host Indra for the first time this year.

In recent times, India has strengthened defence ties with Russia. During his visit to Moscow in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India was planning to strike its biggest arms deal with Russia. Later, India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the purchase of five Russian S-400 air defence systems. New Delhi agreed to pay USD 150 billion to Moscow for five air defence systems and 200 light Ka-226T helicopters, apart from striking a final commercial deal on Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]