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Pakistan and India join hands for first-ever military drills

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News Analysis |

The nuclear-armed neighbors and arch-rivals of South Asia, India, and Pakistan, will be participating in a counter-terror exercise consisting of joint military drills, scheduled to take place in September, this year. Pakistan and India, separated in 1947 as part of the subcontinent’s partition plan, will not be the only ones participating in this drill as the Chinese and Russian troops will also be part of the military exercises under the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The Ural Mountains of Russia have been designated to host almost all SCO member states, arranging all exercises devised to boost counter-terror cooperation.The participation of India, which is a strong rival state of Pakistan and China, was confirmed by Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister. In this regard,  the ‘Peace Mission’ drills will be unique in as the nations, otherwise bogged down in multiple conflicts, will be jointly devising strategies to wipe terrorism off their states.

Interestingly, Pakistan and India accuse each other of cross-border terrorism and infiltration, with the former quoting the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operative arrested due to subversive activities in Baluchistan, Pakistan. The September exercises will be the first of its kind, in which the soldiers of both states will be jointly displaying their military might, but against a common enemy of terrorism.

The joint military exercise will not only reaffirm Pakistan’s pivotal position in the Asia region but will also help its regional allies understand that the country was actively engaged with international players to get rid of the menace of terrorism.

The presence of Pakistani and Indian troops is also of importance because both of the states became the observer of the group in 2005 and were granted a full-member status in 2017, with Russia backing India and China throwing weight behind Pakistan. Adding to this, China and Russia also spar over their border issues with the most noticeable conflict stemming out of the Doklam standoff last year. However, the ties are now being cemented with the recent visit of Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister, to China. Both countries have been conducting the joint exercises since 2010, but, the Doklam standoff staved off the drill last year.

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With the recent tour of Narendra Modi, reports have emerged that India will be hosting China for the joint military drills in the last quarter of the current year. Separately, Pakistan and China have been holding joint exercises for over several years. In September last year, Pakistan and it’s all weather friend’ conducted air exercises following which one of the Pakistan Navy Ships participated in the 5th PN-PLA(N) Bilateral Exercise in China.

Moreover, Pakistan and Russia have also conducted joint military exercises in the past. Though Pakistan joined the U.S. block in the cold war, against Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,  both countries are now coming closer at the military level. The first-ever joint military exercise was hosted by Pakistan in 2016 under the name ‘Friendship 2016’ and it was crucial in the backdrop of the Uri attacks in India. This is due to the fact that Pakistan was successful to garner the support of Russia, despite Indian attempts to foil the military-to-military cooperation.

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Further to this, in September last year, Special Forces of Russia and Pakistan took part in a joint counter-terrorism exercise in Russia. The Druzhba (friendship) series focused on counter-terrorism operations, hostage rescue and cordon, and search operations, but the first sign of the thawing of ties was a deal of four Mi-35 attack helicopters, in 2015, a move which riled India. Pakistan and India might not be able to extract the same fruits of reconciliation out of the upcoming exercises, but Pakistan and Russia can look forward to enhancing cooperation in terms of strategic interests.

Pakistan and India accuse each other of cross border terrorism and infiltration, with the former quoting the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operative arrested due to subversive activities in Baluchistan, Pakistan.

With this in mind, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan, is currently in Russia where he is meeting senior officials close to Kremlin, for exploring new areas of cooperation between Islamabad and Moscow. During one of the meetings, Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, Commander Russian Federation Ground Forces, also expressed that Russia was keen to expand its existing military-to-military cooperation with Pakistan.

The hallmark achievement of Gen Bajwa’s recent tour is the acknowledgment, by the top Russian military commander, of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and its contribution for regional peace. The comments are in a flagrant contradiction with Trump administration’s observations, which keeps on alleging Pakistan of harboring terror sanctuaries, in the backdrop of alleged support to Haqqani network – a charge Pakistan vehemently denies.

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Considering this, recently, when the NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels, with Mike Pompeo making his appearance for the first time as Secretary of state, the U.S. called upon Pakistan to play its part for the peace process in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s civil-military titans keep on reiterating that the country was weeding out terrorism with every possible effort and without any discrimination, a proof of which was the decline in terrorism across the country.

The joint military exercise will not only reaffirm Pakistan’s pivotal position in the Asia region but will also help its regional allies understand that the country was actively engaged with international players to get rid of the menace of terrorism.


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