Exercise Harimau Shakti: Honing Tactical & Technical Skills

The exercise, was held in the dense forests of Sengai Perdik, Hulu Langat, Malaysia, and was aimed at “bolstering cooperation and coordination” between the armed forces of the two countries

Issue: 3 / 2018By Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Army
Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018 in progress

India’s “Act East” policy also involves a steady build up of military ties with ASEAN countries, with an eye perhaps on China. With this back drop Indian armed forces are holding various types of exercises with their counterparts in the ASEAN countries. India held a major combat exercise recently called Exercise ‘Harimau Shakti’ with Malaysia from April 30 to May 13. The exercise, was held in the dense forests of Sengai Perdik, Hulu Langat, Malaysia, and was aimed at “bolstering cooperation and coordination” between the armed forces of the two countries. The two contingents shared their expertise in conduct of counterinsurgency operations in jungle terrain. This was the first instance when a joint training exercise of this magnitude between the two countries was held on Malaysian soil.

The Indian contingent was represented by the 4 Grenadiers battalion, one of the oldest infantry units with extensive experience in conventional and counter-insurgency operations, while the Malaysian side was represented by the 1 Royal Ranger Regiment and the Royal Malay Regiment, both known for their expertise in jungle warfare.

The exercise involved a cross-training phase followed by a field-training phase of seven days in the jungles of Hulu Langat, which saw the two contingents jointly plan and execute a series of training activities.

India has been working towards deepening military ties with ASEAN countries in accordance with its “Act East” policy over the last several years. India, for instance, provides military supplies and submarine training to sailors from Vietnam and has also offered the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and Akash area defence missile systems to the country. In keeping with this philosophy the focus of the exercise was on tactical operations in jungle warfare. Overall, the exercise not only provided an excellent opportunity to both the armies to hone their operational skills, but also contributed to enhancing the strategic partnership between India and Malaysia with whome the bilateral relations are characterized by strong bonds of friendship based on cultural, religious and economic ties between South India and the Malay Peninsula over two millennia. India-Malaysia defence ties date back to the colonial days when troops of Madras Native Infantry served in Malacca, Singapore and Penang,” said an army officer.

Handing Over Ceremony and First Phase

Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018, between the Indian Army and the Malaysian Army commenced on April 30 at Wardieburn Camp, Kuala Lumpur with a brief and impressive handing over of troops ceremony. Lt Col Irwan Ibrahim, Commanding officer of the 1st Royal Ranger Regiment of Malaysian Army welcomed the Indian contingent and wished the Indian and Malaysian troops a successful and mutually beneficial joint exercise.

First phase of the two week long joint military exercise begin with the formal handing over of the Regimental Flag to the Malaysian Army signifying merging of the two contingents under one Commander. First day also saw briefings to the joint contingent on Malaysian country brief, exercise setting and security aspects. The day ended with a keenly contested friendly Volley Ball match, which the visitors could finally snatch after a stiff competition. Both armies stand to hone their tactical and technical skills in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations under the UN mandate. Due emphasis will be laid on increasing interoperability between forces which is crucial for success of any joint operation. Basic drills and procedures and the survival techniques in jungles were discussed and practiced. Malaysian army is well versed in operations in the jungles and explained very useful techniques of survival in the jungles.

In this phase the Indian Army’s combat engineers also exchanged mutually beneficial information with the Malaysian Army on improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and construction of traps in the jungle in which the Indian Army is one of the most experienced in the world having fought the LTTE in Sri Lanka and experience gained in fighting the home grown insurgencies in J&K, Punjab, and the North East over the past 60 years or so.

Second Phase

This phase started on May 7, 2018, with the troops with the exercise venue shifting to the tropical rain forests of Hulu Langat in Malaysia. Here the troops focused on the conduct of counterinsurgency operations in jungle terrain. Starting with the basics of camouflage and concealment in the jungle, the conduct involved patrolling in the jungle to seek and destroy the opponents and to acquire information. The drills were executed flawlessly by both sides with a simulated enemy in place.

Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018 in progress

Practical operations involving reconnaissance of ambush sites and conduct of ambush as also methods of countering an ambush were all practiced against a simulated enemy under realistic operational conditions. Jungle terrain requires not only physical fitness but also mental robustness to remain mentally balanced facing the challenges confronted in jungle terrain where the enemy could appear from any direction and where survival itself is a challenge. It also requires a very high standard of training and coordination among all members of tactical units and subunits because ultimately actual operations in the jungles involve tactical operations at lower levels of command such as sections, platoons and companies and hence lower level commanders (section and platoon commanders) have to take the initiative and progress the operations. Thus success depends on the actions of every member of the team.

Closing Ceremony

Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018 between Indian and Malaysian Armies concluded with a closing ceremony at the tropical rainforests of Hulu Langat on May 11, 2018. The grand finale of the exercise was a tactical operation on conduct of attack on enemy camp.

The closing ceremony marked the successful conclusion of Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018. The event began with customary salute to Brigadier General Abdul Malik Bin Jiran, Commander 12 Infantry Brigade, followed by national anthem of both the nations. Exercise arm bands were taken off from the exercise appointments and the Regimental flag of GRENADIERS was handed back to Col S.N. Karthikeyan, CO 4 GRENADIERS by Lt Col Irwan Bin Ibrahim, CO 1 Royal Ranger Regiment symbolising the handing over of the troops back to the Indian Contingent Commander at the end of the Exercise.

In his closing address, the Commander complimented the troops from both the contingents for their exemplary conduct, high morale and tactical acumen throughout the exercise. He also complimented the Indian contingent for assimilating and understanding the nuances of jungle operations as per Malaysian doctrine and fighting shoulder to shoulder with their Malaysian counterparts. The ceremony came to a close with the war cries of both the contingents and customary recital of prayers by the Malaysian Army.

Mridul Kumar, Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia, also visited the Exercise contingents at the Exercise area and complimented the troops on successful completion of the joint training exercise. He was highly appreciative of the high spirits and exemplary drills shown by the contingents under challenging conditions and inclement weather.

The professional acumen, operational abilities, battle drills and physical endurance displayed by the contingents over the last fortnight, were of extremely high standard and an apt reflection of the level of interoperability achieved during the exercise. The contingents from Indian and Malaysian armies have been able to share their experiences in counter insurgency operations and learn from each other. The future editions of Exercise Harimau Shakti will surely take this legacy forward and will ensure that the two nations continue to maintain close defence ties in ensuring peace and security in the region.