Russia’s first joint military exercise with Pakistan, comes at a time when tensions between India and Pakistan are very high. The exercise which is being held in Pakistan’s Cherat, has sparked speculation about the growing bonhomie between Pakistan and Russia. Defence and strategic affairs have expressed concerns over the exercise, stating that Russia’s move signals a shift away from India. Russia has always said that it is an ‘all-weather’ friend of India, but the latter’s growing warmth with US may not have gone down well with Russia. Around 200 military personnel from the two sides are taking part in the joint military exercises. The move also comes amidst increasing defence ties between Russia and Pakistan as the latter mulls buying advanced Russian warplanes.
Pakistan’s Director General ISPR recently posted images of Russian forces arriving in the country for the two-week long exercise which began on September 24. “A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived Pak for 1st ever Pak- Russian joint exercise (2 weeks) from 24 Sep to 10 Oct 2016,” he tweeted. Below is a Russia Today video of the Joint special operations exercise between Russian and Pakistani Special Units held at SFTC in Cherat Pakistan.
Joint Special Ops exercise between Russian and Pakistani Special Units held at SFTC in Cherat Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/axhoboYIsi
— Pakistan Defence (@defencepk) October 1, 2016
Even as India moves to globally isolate Pakistan after the Uri attack, Russia did not call of its joint exercise with Pakistan. The country had, however, sought to clarify that the joint exercises would not be taking place in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Russian Embassy in India had said that “the Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. The only venue of the exercise is Cherat.”
Recently India conducted surgical strikes across the LoC and destroyed several terrorist launch pads in a bid to pre-empt attacks. The strikes are also widely seen as a strong warning to Pakistan after four terrorists attacked an Indian Army camp in Kashmir’s Uri on September 18. While the four terrorists were neutralised, many Indian soldiers were martyred in the attack. Pakistan on its part has denied any surgical strikes by India.