Indo-French joint military training 'Exercise Shakti-2016' commenced at the Mahajan field firing range in Bikaner on 8 January 2016 with the opening ceremony that saw the unfurling of the national flags of both countries to the strains of national anthems, "Jana Gana Mana" and "La Marseillaise". Brigadier SS Mohite, officer commanding, Indian Brigade welcomed the French contingent and urged both contingents to achieve optimum cohesion and inter-operability to achieve the military objectives of the exercise. He stressed upon the importance of free exchange of ideas, concepts and best practices between the troops and the necessity to learn from each others' experiences. He added that, “The joint exercise facilitated both armies to know each other better, share their experiences and enhance their situational awareness through information exchange. This would help them in undertaking joint operations at platoon level for neutralisation of terrorist threat under the ambit of United Nations Mandate.”
Few days prior, the French contingent of a platoon group of 35th Infantry Regiment comprising 56 personnel landed at Suratgarh from France. The 8-day-long exercise focused on joint training on counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under United Nations Mandate.
Participating troops in Shakti 2016 engaged in several missions ranging from joint planning, cordon and search operations, search and rescue, joint tactical drills and the basics of special arms skills. The joint exercise was divided into two successive phases: the first concentrated on tactical training and close combat while the second, validation, phase had the two contingents undertaking a wide range of missions, from planning to search and rescue operations via the joint execution of counter-insurrectional combat tactics.
The Indian side consisted of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of Garhwal Rifles, which forms a part of the part of the Sapta Shakti Command. The Indian units had undergone a strenuous training schedule, which included tactical operations and heliborne missions. Shakti-2016’s gruelling training schedule was aimed at streamlining infantry tactical operations and last phase of the exercise included clearing of terrorist packets in simulated rural and urban environments.
2nd Battalion of Garhwal Rifles, has varied experience in combating terror and insurgency. It distinguished itself in the Northern theatre, by taking part in several counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. The unit received the prestigious Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Citation and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command Unit Citation for keeping terrorism at bay, maintaining law and order, and preserve the sanctity of the border in the Northern regions.
The French Army contingent, the 35th Infantry Regiment, led by Major Thibaut De Lacoste Lareymondie, has a long history of tactical experience, which dates back to 1604 when it was established in Lorraine. The regiment has received at least 12 honours to its credit. It also has a varied combat experience, having served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria and Iraq. The 35th Infantry Regiment was raised 411 years ago and specialises in close combat. Presently based in Belfort, eastern France, the regiment is equipped with the VBCI eight-wheeled armoured vehicle made by Nexter Systems and the Felin soldier combat system made by Sagem. It became entirely digitalised in 2006 making it one of the French army’s most modern regiments.