ISLAMABAD – The Indian and Pakistani militaries will participate in a joint exercise along with six other countries, including China, in Russia this August, with Chinese experts saying the manoeuvres could ease tensions between the two neighbours and mark a new high for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The drill could include a rare meeting between the Indian and Pakistani chiefs of general staff.
This will be the first time India and Pakistan will jointly participate in a military exercise since independence, though their militaries have worked side-by-side during UN peacekeeping missions.
The joint counterterrorism command post exercise, codenamed Peace Mission 2018, will feature members of SCO and will be held at Chebarkulsky training ground in the Ural mountains.
“It is planned that chiefs of general staff of the SCO states will hold meetings within the drills,” Russia’s defence ministry announced last week.
Military representatives from SCO countries met in Russia last week to discuss the “concept of the exercise, the plan of practical actions as well as the strength and forces and means (to be) involved”, it added.
The drill will follow the 18th SCO Summit, scheduled for June 9-10 in the coastal city of Qingdao. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to attend the meet.
Li Li, a leading expert on South Asia at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told China Daily that many exchange mechanisms between Pakistan and India have been halted due to constant border tensions.
“It is very rare for Indian and Pakistani militaries to interact with each other,” she said. “The SCO is a great platform for member nations to build mutual trust, improve their ability to tackle terrorist threats and maintain regional peace and security.”
India and Pakistan both became full members of SCO in June 2017.
Li Xing, professor of international relations at Beijing Normal University, expressed similar sentiments to the Chinese daily.
“India and Pakistan have had many conflicts, but the SCO exercise can facilitate positive interactions between the two militaries and help ease tensions between the two countries,” Li Xing said, adding participation of the two countries in the drill represents a new high in security cooperation through the SCO.
The last such exercise was held in Kyrgyzstan in September 2016.
The SCO was founded in 2001 at a Shanghai summit by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.