New Delhi: In less than five months from now, for the first time ever, Indian and Pakistani soldiers will fight together hand in hand in mock operations to eliminate terrorists, neutralise terror networks and thwart possible attacks besides testing combat readiness.
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 South Asian neighbours, with a bitter history of wars and a relationship of rancor, 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 full members including India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
While four nations have been accorded ‘observer’ status, another six are ‘dialogue’ partners.
Held once in two years, “Peaceful Mission 2018” will be the fifth edition of the multilateral exercise but this will be the first time for both India and Pakistan that became SCO members on June 9, 2017. As members it is mandatory for them to take part in the week-long exercise.
Interestingly, the two countries are also together in the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure, an arrangement under which they have to exchange intelligence information on terror.
Being the host country, Russia is expected to participate in a big way in terms of men, material and sophisticated weapon systems. China is also expected to deploy at least about five hundred soldiers, while the participation of the Indian and Pakistani military contingents are likely to be smaller. The military exercise will begin just after a mega defence expo in Russia that will begin from August 21....