The Minister of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Taran, during a meeting with Minister of Defense and Indian military chiefs, invited the India to participate in the multinational military exercises taking place on the territory of Ukraine, in particular, in multinational Ex Sea Breeze 2021. The Ukrainian Minister was on a visit to the Aero India 2021 international aerospace and defense exhibition held in Bangalore on February 3-7, 2021.
“The current state of bilateral cooperation and further steps of cooperation in the military and technical sector were discussed. The parties expressed mutual interest and readiness to intensify relations in a wide range of military cooperation,” says a Ukrainian Ministry of Defence release.
India is the largest operator of the Russian military equipment outside Russia and both the countries have deep bond since many decades. Russia and Ukraine are in conflict and it makes it harder for India to join any multilateral drills with Ukraine. India had voted against a Ukrainian resolution in the United Nations (UN) against Russia over Crimea. Ukraine has significant arms sales to Pakistan and China.
“This is unlikely to be accepted. Ukraine does not offer us any strategic advantage as against Russia. We have a long standing working strategic partnership with Russia, which cannot in any way be jeopardised,” say’s Cmde Arun Kumar (Retd), who is familiar with the the Russian, Ukrainian and Indian affairs.
However, Ukraine and India too have developed relations in the field of defence, especially supplying, maintaining and upgrading equipment which Ukraine inherited from the former Soviet Union. This includes, modernisation of Indian tanks and armored vehicles, modernizing Indian radars and air defense equipment, supplying components for existing Indian Navy ships and submarines and maintaining Indian aircraft and helicopters.
Exercise Sea Breeze started as a bilateral training program between Ukraine and the United States in 1997. Over the years, the exercise has seen the participation of countries like Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Romania, and Georgia. As per Ukraine, the purpose of Sea Breeze is to improve maritime safety, security and stability in the Black Sea region. On January 26, the Verkhovna Rada, the unicameral Parliament of Ukraine had approved the president Volodymyr Zelensky ‘s decision to allow the armed forces from other countries to participate in multinational exercises.
Russia joined the Sea Breeze Exercise in 1998, but views the exercise with suspicion, due to the presence of the US. Russia referees exercise as NATO’s Sea Breeze drills. The exercise is held in the Black Sea, which Russia considers as its backyard. Sea Breeze is the largest multinational military exercise hosted by Ukraine involving naval, air, and land forces. The US and NATO have an interest in the region as it is important for reaching Afghanistan and Iraq where they have a military presence. The US and NATO appear reluctant to involve directly into the conflicts between and Russia and former Soviet Republics, particularly Ukraine and Georgia which have coastlines in the Black Sea. The Russian Black Sea fleet has held parallel exercise during Exercise Sea Breeze 2019. The exercise also draws mixed reactions from the Ukraine population, which is divided between the country’s attempt to join NATO and pro Russia sentiments.