The eighth edition of the Indo-Russia joint military exercise ‘Indra 2016’ was flagged off in Vladivostok in Russia on Friday. Indra, a portmanteau of the names of both the countries, is a biannual exercise which has been carried out between the two allies since 2003. This year, the focus is on Counterterrorism Operations in Semi Mountainous and Jungle Terrain under United Nations Mandate. Interestingly though, Russian troops arrived in Pakistan the same day for the first-ever Pakistan-Russia joint military exercise.
A total of 250 troops from the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army are participating in the Exercise Indra 2016. A same number of Russian troops from the 59th Motorised Infantry are participating in the joint exercise. The Indian Army contingent reached Vladivostok on 21 September. The 11-day exercise being conducted at the Sergiveskey of the Russian Federation will be held from September 22 to October 2. Both countries are old strategic allies and India is one of the largest purchasers of Russian defence equipment as well as defence technology.
Meanwhile, New Delhi has expressed its concern over the drill in Pakistan as a part of it will be held in Gilgit Baltistan, a part of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan. The drill will be held at Pakistan Army’s High Altitude School at Rattu along with a special forces training centre at Cherat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Russia and Pakistan, both cold-war era adversaries, seem to be improving their relationships on the strategic as well as the military trade front. After the Soviet and Afghan conflict that trickled down into Pakistan, it is now that the two countries are slowly moving ahead as allies.
India is in a precarious position as one of its oldest partners is now engaging with its principal military adversary. Russia has the potential to act as another peacemaker between India and Pakistan as they go loggerheads against each other after the recent Uri terror attack. It remains to be seen whether, Russia, just like US and China, will attempt to calm the nerves between the two nuclear neighbours.
UPDATE: In a statement issued late on September 23, the Russian Embassy in India has clarified that drills with Pakistan in PoK are false, adding that the only venue of drills is Cherat.