Russia and Pakistan started their first-ever joint military exercise called ‘Friendship 2016’ at Cherat on Saturday, a day after the arrival of Russian troops in Pakistan.
The exercise, designed for counter-terror operations, will continue till October 10.
Initial media reports suggested that the exercise would be held in Pak-occupied Kashmir but the Russian embassy in India issued a statement late at night on Friday denouncing the reports.
Indian media had previously reported that Russia had called off their scheduled exercise with Pakistan following the Uri attack, which turned out to be false.
Though the drill is not taking place anywhere in PoK, the very fact that the Russians are holding such drills with the Pakistanis is bad news for India. This is the same Pakistan which helped train and arm the Mujahideen against Soviets in Afghanistan with the United States. It is the same Pakistan which is still home to the world’s most wanted terrorists and terror groups.
With China already standing with Pakistan in all political spheres, Moscow’s newfound friendship with Islamabad might not go down well with India’s foreign policy plans with regard to Pakistan.
Brahma Chellaney pointed out that it was India’s growing closeness with United States which encouraged Russia to gravitate towards Pakistan.
Till 2014, Russia was a strong strategic ally of India’s. In 2014, however, Moscow lifted its arms embargo on Islamabad opening the path to defence deals such as the sale of attack helicopters to Pakistan.
Between 2014 and 2016, India’s ties with US skyrocketed to a level of strategic alliance that could not have been predicted even by the most astute expert. India is now acquiring the world’s best attack helicopter, Apache, and heavy lift transport helicopter, Chinhooks, from the US. It was the US which helped India enter the MTCR club and gave solid backing to India’s membership at NSG. At the same time, India’s ties with US allies in the East, too, reached newer levels. The relationship between New Delhi and Beijing nosedived following the latter’s blocking of India’s NSG membership bid. Despite its growing closeness with US, India’s strategic relationship with Russia remains largely intact. As of now a contingent of the Indian Army is participating in the eight edition of the military exercise Indra 2016 with Russian soldiers in Vladivostok.
Reports say that 250 soldiers of the Kumaon Regiment are representing the Indian Contingent and the Russian Army is being represented by 250 soldiers from the 59th Motorized Infantry Brigade.