[h=1]Army to hold joint exercises with 16 friendly forces[/h] NEW DELHI: From just a couple of joint exercises annually a decade ago, Indian Army is really cranking up its engagement with foreign armies now. The 1.13-million force will undertake as many as 16 combat exercises with friendly forces in 2011-2012. The flurry of exercises constitute an effective diplomatic tool to enhance overall strategic ties and military-to-military cooperation with countries in India's "immediate" and "strategic neighbourhood" as well as "priority nations'' far away. From US, UK, France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Maldives, Seychelles, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the response has been "simply overwhelming", say Army officers. "Other armies are very keen to exercise with us since we have six decades of combat experience across the entire spectrum of conflict. One of the main focus areas in the exercises has been counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency in rural, semi-urban and urban terrains," said a senior officer. With the ever-growing threat of terrorism looming large over the globe, this comes as no surprise. Indian Army, after all, has dealt with insurgencies and terrorism over the years, developing valuable expertise in tackling "sub-conventional warfare" or "low-intensity conflict operations". Army, of course, also has specialized institutions like the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Vairengte in Mizoram, where soldiers learn to "fight the guerrilla like a guerrilla'', as well as the High-Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Jammu and Kashmir, which runs specialized mountain warfare courses in Sonamarg area and snow-craft and winter warfare in Gulmarg area. So, if 200 Indian soldiers recently participated in "Ajayee Warrior" exercise with British soldiers at the Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, near Salisbury in UK, another contingent is currently in Mongolia for the "Nomadic Elephant" counter-terror exercise. Then, French soldiers will be at Chaubatia, near Ranikhet, to take part in the "Shakti" exercise with India's 99 Mountain Brigade from October 9 to 22. The exercises, of course, are meant to build bridges in tune with India's larger geostrategic interests. India, for instance, has been assiduously ramping up economic and military ties with Central Asian Republics. A joint special forces training exercise will soon be held with Kyrgyzstan as part of the policy. "Exercises with Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal and Bangladesh are also slated in the coming months. The one with Myanmar, for instance, will be held at CIJWS. After 'Vajra Prahar' and 'Shatrujeet' exercises with US earlier this year, the 'Yudh Abhyas' one in India is also next on the agenda," said another officer. "The exercises build mutual trust, confidence and interoperability. Our soldiers also learn a lot from different armies, and enhance their capability to operate alongside other defence forces under the UN flag or otherwise," he added.