Indian and US troops have participated in a high-altitude training exercise in a cold, mountainous region near India’s disputed border with China, at a time both countries are trying to manage rising tensions with Beijing.
Indian soldiers were dropped from helicopters to flush out gunmen from a house in a demonstration of unarmed combat skills.
Other drills involved sniffer dogs and unmanned bomb-disposal vehicles, and trained kites were deployed to destroy small enemy drones.
“Overall, it has been a great learning experience. There has been sharing of best practices between both the armies,” said Brigadier Pankaj Verma of the Indian army.
The annual drills took part around Auli, a hill station in the northern state of Uttarakhand.
The US troops came from the 2nd Brigade of the 11th Airborne Division, and their Indian counterparts were members of the Assam Regiment.
India’s Defence Ministry said the exercise would focus on surveillance, mountain warfare skills, casualty evacuation and combat medical aid in adverse terrain and climatic conditions.
It also included humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and operations related to peacekeeping.
The Yudh Abhyas exercise has alternated between the US and India since it began in the early 2000s. It was held in Alaska last year.
Earlier editions had taken place elsewhere in northern India, but this year’s exercise was about 60 miles from the Line of Actual Control, a disputed border that separates Chinese and Indian-held territories.
The two countries fought a war along the border in 1962, and the latest dispute flared in June 2020 when at least 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops were killed in a brawl in the Ladakh region.
It led to the nations stationing tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along the Line of Actual Control.
Some Indian and Chinese soldiers have pulled back from a key friction point but tensions between the two countries have persisted.
The exercise also reflects strengthening defence ties between India and the US. They have steadily ramped up their military relationship and signed a string of defence deals and deepened military co-operation.
In recent years, relations have been driven by a convergence of interests to counter China.