In a first, India, Pak militaries hold joint anti-terror exercises

China, other SCO members too join

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Aug 25: While troops of India and Pakistan almost regularly engage themselves in cross-border shelling and firing and target the soldiers with sniper shots in Jammu and Kashmir, the militaries of the two countries, for the first time in the history, are engaged in mega anti-terror exercises in Russia along with China and many other countries.
The military exercises, in which combating terrorism is major part, are being held under the aegis of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) of which both India and Pakistan are full members. However, India is participating in such a drill for the first time as it had become full member of the SCO only in June 2017.
“The anti-terror exercises by the SCO members including India, Pakistan and China among others, being held at Russia, were aimed at expanding cooperation among the member countries to deal with the threat of terrorism and extremism, which has been rising with many nations facing attacks from international terror outfits like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” official sources told the Excelsior.
“The effective counter-terrorism cooperation among SCO countries has greatly undermined terrorist groups in Central Asia in recent years, and it’s expected that this effective cooperation will also boost stability in South Asia, a region facing a more complicated counter-terrorism situation with a variety of active terrorist groups,” sources said.
The Peace Mission 2018 will also greatly improve military and political mutual trust among SCO countries, especially between India and Pakistan, sources pointed out.
Pakistani troops generally violate ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the Indian Army to retaliate. Both sides exchange firing quite often.
“It’s a rare opportunity for India and Pakistan, which have long been involved in military conflict, to enhance military exchanges and trust. This could improve regional stability,” they said.
Sources said as part of the SCO initiatives, the SCO Peace Mission Exercise is conducted biennially for the SCO member States, which helps the member nations to understand each other and gain from their experiences especially in countering the ever increasing threat of terrorism including the ISIS, which has already targeted various countries.
Significantly, the joint participation of militaries of India and Pakistan in the anti-terrorism exercises comes at a time when there has been change of guard in Pakistan with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan recently taking over as new Prime Minister of the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written a congratulatory letter to Imran Khan in which he had expressed hope of both countries increasing mutual understanding. Khan had reciprocated the letter.
“The joint exercise is being conducted by the Central Military Commission of Russia and will conclude on August 29 at Chebarkul, Russia. The exercise will involve tactical level operations in an international counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism environment under the SCO charter,” sources said.
They added that at least 3,000 soldiers from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India and Pakistan are participating in the drill.
The Indian contingent comprised 200 military personnel comprising troops from infantry and affiliated arms and services along with the Indian Air Force.
“The Indian contingent has been put through a strenuous training schedule which includes firing, heliborne operations, combat conditioning, tactical operations and house intervention drills,” sources said, adding that the joint exercise will strengthen mutual confidence, interoperability and enable sharing of best practices among armed forces of the SCO nations.
The previous SCO counter-terrorism drills were mainly limited to the Central Asian nations. However, due to the entry of India and Pakistan, the SCO’s counter-terrorism mission has expanded to South Asia.
The SCO was established in Shanghai in 2001, with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgy-zstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as founding members.
It expanded to include India and Pakistan in 2017.
The Peace Mission 2018 also created a historic chance for four major military powers in Eurasia – China, Russia, Pakistan and India – to participate in the same military drill, according to sources.