Even though ties between India and Pakistan continue to remain strained, the two neighbours will participate together for the first time in a multi-nation counter-terrorism exercise in Russia in September. The military exercise, being conducted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on, will see participation of almost member nations, including China. Quoting officials, PTI reported that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had confirmed India’s presence during the SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Beijing last week.
The drill will also see the resumption of bilateral military exercise between India and China, which was suspended last year following the 73-day Doklam standoff. At the informal meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two leaders aksed their militaries to strengthen communication, build trust and mutual understanding and “enhance predictability” and “effectiveness” in managing border affairs.
Termed “Peace Mission”, the military exercise will be held at the Ural mountains of Russia and its main aim will be to to enhance counter-terror cooperation among the eight SCO member countries. Even though military personnel of India and Pakistan have worked together in United Nations’ peace keeping missions, it will be for the first time since Independence that the countries will take part in a military exercise.
While repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan from across the Line of Control and interference in Kashmir by lending support to militant groups have seen relations between the countries on a free fall, the participation in a joint military exercise is certainly a positive step. Till April 21, Pakistan has violated ceasefire 650 times in Jammu and Kashmir, which has led to 31 casualties, including 16 security personnel.
The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted as observers of the grouping in 2005. Both the countries were admitted as full members of the bloc last year. India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. SCO now represents over 40 per cent of humanity and nearly 20 per cent of the global GDP.