|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
India for the first time will be hosting 'Army Scout Masters Competition', which is part of 'International Army Games' steered by Russia annually since August 2015. Army Scout Masters Competition 2019 will be the fifth edition, which India will host in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. For the past four years, Army Scout Masters Competition was held at Koltsovo training grounds in Novosibirsk Region of Russia as part of the International Army Games; conducted under established format of competition amongst scouts. The format of International Army Games has been that around 30 countries participate in the games, battling out in dozens of competitions spread over a fortnight to prove which country has the best military.
Participant countries send troops adept in warfare on land, sea and air. It includes tank biathlon and fighter aircraft manoeuvers contests. Indian participation in International Army Games last year (2018) was in two competitions, namely, 'Tank Biathlon' and 'Elbrus Ring', latter being a mountain warfare combat patrol competition. At the closing ceremony of Army Scout Masters Competition 2018 in Russia, Brig Ramankutty Prem Raj of Indian Army announced that the next Army Scout Masters Competition will be held in Jaisalmer, India. After awarding the winners and runners up, the Russian side handed the flag of International Army Games and the cup with their symbols to the Indian side. Thanking the Russian side, Brigadier Raj said, "A true scout must be flexible and able to be adept to any climatic conditions. Scouts have to be ready to perform in desert areas".
Army Scout Masters 2018 involved the teams from Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe and Belarus. The stated objective of Army Scout Masters Competition is to forge strong ties with friendly foreign countries and to promote peaceful co-existence, collaboration, cooperation, team spirit, tranquility development of relations contestants and at the same time facilitating sharing of best practices, hardware and technology. Army Scout Masters Competition gives the participating countries an opportunity, and medium to learn from each other, cooperate and carry back best practices. It seeks to enhance international military to military technical cooperation between the participating states.
Army Scout Masters Competition 2019 will be conducted under aegis of the Indian Army's Konark Corps' at Jaisalmer Military Station. The Completion will be held in five stages; designed to test navigation skills, team work amongst participating teams, marksmanship, and endurance under an international panel comprising expert judges and arbiters. The events will involve simulated battle scenarios like Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs), setting up ambushes, combat among ICVs, infiltration behind enemy lines, surviving in chemical and nuclear affected environment, and ex-filtration back from enemy territory. The competition will provide the platform for employment of military equipment like Mi-17 helicopters, Advance Light Helicopter (ALH), BMP ICVs and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Mechanised infantry scout teams of some nine countries, including Russia which is the founding member of this format of international army games, are participating in the event. The other countries are Armenia, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and host India. The participation of Sudan is yet not confirmed. The coordinating conference for Army Scout Masters Competition 2019 is being shortly. 27 representatives from various countries are scheduled to attend this conference. Few of them, including from Russia and China, have already started arriving in Jaisalmer for the coordinating conference. It is for the first time that India is hosting and participating in the Army Scout Masters Competition.
Considering the prowess of the Indian Army and the advantage it has having operated in the tricky desert in Jaisalmer region, the participating Indian team should emerge winners. Hopefully, the equipment will not fail the troops, as happened during the Tank Biathlon at the Albino Ranges in the Moscow region of Russia in 2017, where the participating Indian Army team was knocked out in the semi-finals with both the main and reserve T-90 main battle tanks developing mechanical problems. As a result of the breakdown of both tanks, the Indian squad was unable to complete the race and was 'disqualified'. It was a sad end to the competition for the Army's tank crews since they had topped their group in the earlier round and were seen to be strong challengers to win the competition.