Russian troops arrive in Pakistan for first-ever joint military exercise
Updated: Sep 23, 2016 18:16 IST
Russian troops after they arrived in Rawalpindi on Friday for the first joint exercise with the Pakistan Army. (ISPR)
A contingent of Russian troops arrived in Pakistan on Friday for the first military exercise between the two Cold War rivals, with part of the high altitude drill to be conducted in territory claimed by India.
Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, head of the Pakistani military’s media arm, tweeted photos of the Russian troops after they flew into an airbase in Rawalpindi, squelching speculation that Moscow would call off the wargame in the wake of the terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri .
“A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived in Pakistan for first ever Pak- Russian joint exercise (two weeks) from September 24 to October 10,” Bajwa said. The Russian contingent was warmly welcomed by senior Pakistan Army officials before it left for the training venue.
About 200 soldiers from each side will join the two-week exercise “Druzhba 2016” (Friendship 2016).
New Delhi had conveyed to Moscow its concerns that part of the drill will be held at a military facility in Gilgit-Baltistan, which was part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state and is claimed by India. Following the Uri attack that killed 18 soldiers, sections of the Indian media had reported that India had prevailed on Russia to call off the exercise.
A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived Pak for 1st ever Pak- Russian joint exercise (2 weeks) from 24 Sep to 10 Oct 2016
External affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup had referred to plans to conduct manoeuvres in Gilgit-Baltistan and said this was “part of Indian territory”. New Delhi’s “well known sensitivities” had been conveyed to Moscow, he said.
The exercise will be conducted at the Pakistan Army’s High Altitude School at Rattu in Gilgit-Baltistan and at a special forces training centre at Cherat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The drill is expected to focus on high-altitude warfare.
Russian troops after they arrived in Rawalpindi on Friday for the first joint exercise with the Pakistan Army. Part of the drill will be conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan, which was part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state and is claimed by India. (ISPR)
The drill reflects the growing military-to-military ties between Pakistan and Russia, whose relations were strained for decades following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The two sides have taken several steps to improve defence relations as India’s military procurements moved away from Russia to the US and Israel.
Russia lifted a long-standing embargo on arms sales to Pakistan in 2014. Last year, the two sides finalised a deal for four Mi-35 attack helicopters – a move that angered India. Since then, reports have suggested that Pakistan is interested in acquiring more military gear from Russia, including Su-35 combat jets.
The Pakistani media reported the joint exercise indicates a steady growth in ties between the two countries. Pakistan’s envoy to Russia, Qazi Khalilullah, said the exercise also reflected the increased cooperation between the two sides. “This obviously indicates a desire on both sides to broaden defence and military-technical cooperation,” he told a Russian news agency.
The chiefs of Pakistan’s army, navy and air force have also visited Russia over the past 15 months.
In a related development, Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Friday inaugurated state of the art facilities at the National Counter Terrorism Center located near Kharian. The center trains local and foreign army units for counter-terrorism operations.