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ASEAN Plus military exercise "watershed event": Army chief

The Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Dalbir Singh presenting the award of excellence to the contingent head of India Lt. Col. Sophia Qureshi, during the closing ceremony of Exercise Force-18, in Pune on March 08, 2016. A PIB photo

PUNE (PTI): Army chief General Dalbir Singh on Tuesday said there is a need to collectively address the issues of "mine menace" and role of "peacekeepers" in maintaining harmony and stability in the affected nations.

He was addressing over 300 foreign participants and observers from ASEAN Plus countries at the closing ceremony of "Exercise Force 18", the largest ground forces operation ever conducted on Indian soil at Aundh Military Station, Pune from March 2 to 8.

He termed the seven-day long exercise, based on themes "Humanitarian Mine Action' and 'Peacekeeping Operations', as a "watershed event in the history of ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus forum."

"It has showcased perfect harmony among the ASEAN Plus Nations in the field of humanitarian mine action and peacekeeping operations.

"The menace of landmines haunts many of our South East countries. This in turn has adversely affected the security and economic development of the region," said Singh.

He appreciated ASEAN member states such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for making substantial progress towards the disposal of explosives remnants of war (ERW) and said these initiatives have been strongly supported by the international community.

The Army chief informed that 6th Expert Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Action has contributed towards bringing "synergy" among the ASEAN Plus Nations.

"The other important expert working group is on peacekeeping operations. The group has been able to successfully establish a robust platform for United Nations Peacekeepers to provide necessary contribution towards peace and security in the region."

The closing ceremony began with marching in of ASEAN Plus contingents followed by national anthem. Singh later handed over plaques to all contingent commanders of foreign armies and also gave away 'Award of Excellence' to best performers in the exercise.

The 40-member Indian Army contingent at the ceremony was led by a woman officer, Lt Col Sophia Qureshi. Indian Army personnel later displayed combat deployment of Special Forces using 'Dhruv' helicopters.

Besides ASEAN members - Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand - hosts India and major military powers like China, Australia, Russia and US participated in the exercise.

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