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India and the United States held a joint military exercise in May 2002 as part of growing ties between the two countries.

The exercise aimed to further the objectives of enhancing military cooperation between India and the US

Indian defence spokesman

The exercise, in the northern city of Agra, is the first joint military manoeuvre between the two countries in 39 years.

The war games involve Indian army para-commandos, special forces from the US Asia-Pacific command and aircraft from the two countries, an Indian defence spokesman said.

The exercise, codenamed Balance Iroquois, was scheduled to last for a few days.

It took place as hundreds of thousands of combat-ready forces faced each other along the India-Pakistan border, raising fears of an all-out war between the two neighbours.

Improving ties

An Indian defence spokesman said the exercise was intended as a follow-up to India's new relationship with the US.

India has held joint military manoeuvres before

Washington had imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan after they carried out nuclear tests in 1998.

The sanctions were lifted a few months ago.

The war games were the first of many between the two sides whose relations have dramatically improved recently.

India has held military manoeuvres with Britain, France and Japan besides conducting anti-piracy sea patrols off the Malacca Straits with the US navy.

The last India-US exercises were held a year after India fought a brief but bitter border war with China in 1962.

Defence sales

Some 50 US policy makers have visited India since July last year and an equal number of Indians, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee have travelled to Washington.

The contacts increased after the 11 September attacks on the US, and peaked in December following a militant attack on the Indian parliament.

Top military officials have since exchanged visits and Washington has agreed to resume defence sales to India.

India, in easter 2002 bought eight Firefinder artillery-locating radars from the US. The contract was the first arms deal between the two countries for more than a decade. During the cross border stand-off between India & Pakistan, the UK sold various warplanes to India; a move that was strongly criticised by the British media.