India, Pak to be part of anti-terror drill in Russia

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New Delhi, July 15:  Militaries of India and Pakistan will be part of a mega anti-terror drill in Russia next month which is being organised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with an aim to expand cooperation among the member countries to deal with terrorism and extremism.

Around 200 Army and Air Force personnel from India will be participating in the exercise scheduled from August 20-29 at Chelyabinsk city in west-central Russia, official sources said.

The exercise will be joined by all SCO member countries including Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The drill, “Peace Mission”, will take place nearly three months after the SCO, in its annual summit in Chinese city of Qingdao, resolved to deepen cooperation among their militaries to deal with threats of terrorism, extremism and separatism.

“The broad objective of the exercise is to boost cooperation among the SCO countries to deal with challenge of terrorism and extremism,” said a military official.

On the sidelines of the exercise, military officials of the SCO countries are likely to deliberate on ways to enhance cooperation to stop spread of terrorist ideologies and eliminate factors and conditions that facilitate terrorism and extremism, the official said.

It will be for the first time since Independence that India and Pakistan will both be part of a military exercise, though the armies of the two nations have worked together in UN peacekeeping missions, he said.

India and Pakistan were admitted as observers of the grouping in 2005 and they were admitted as full members of the bloc last year.

The SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO, has emerged as one of the largest transregional international organisations which accounts for almost 44 per cent of the world population stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea. The aim of the SCO is to maintain peace, stability and security of the region.

India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China.

India feels that as an SCO member, it will be able to play a major role in addressing the threat of terrorism in the region. It is also keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.