For the first time ever, Indian and Pakistani soldiers will fight together, not against each other. In August, the two Armies will undertake joint mock operations in Russia to eliminate terrorists, neutralise terror networks and thwart possible attacks besides testing combat readiness, sources said.
Both the Armies have operated together in the past in foreign lands while providing security or in convoy protection deployment as peacekeepers under the United Nations mandate, but this is the first time that the two neighbours, with a bitter history of wars and a relationship of rancour, will join hands in a military exercise.
A top government source told this newspaper that the exercise called “Peace Mission 2018”, under the umbrella of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), will be held at Chelyabinsk in west-central Russia. It will begin in August-end and conclude in the first week of September.
Chelyabinsk, located close to the Ural mountains, will also host the meeting of the council of heads of SCO member states and the meeting of Brics leaders in 2020.
With aims for political, economic, military cooperation, coordination and solidarity in Eurasia, SCO was formed in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. Now, SCO has eight fulltime members including India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. While four nations have been accorded “observer” status, another six are “dialogue” partners.
“Peace Mission 2018” will be the fifth edition of the multilateral exercise held once in two years but this will be the first drill for both India and Pakistan, which became SCO members on June 9, 2017.
As members of SCO, it is mandatory for the two neighbours to take part in the week-long exercise. Interestingly, the two countries are also together in SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), an arrangement under which they have to exchange intelligence information on terror.
Being the host country, Russia is expected to participate in the exercise in a big way in terms of men, material and sophisticated weapon systems. China is also expected to deploy about 500 soldiers, while the Indian and Pakistani military contingents are likely to be smaller.
The military exercise will begin soon after a mega defence expo in Russia that will begin from August 21. “For the first time, we are expecting big participation by Indian defence industry companies and the defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs),” the source added.