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Pakistani, Russian armies begin second joint exercise

Russia and Pakistan have begun their second joint military exercise, focussed on counter-terror operations, ahead of the Pakistan Army chief’s visit to Moscow next month.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2017 18:55 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pakistan-Russia relations,military exercise by Russia and Pakistan,Druzhba 2017
The special forces contingent from Pakistan that is participating in the joint military exercise with Russia ahead of the Pakistan Army chief’s visit to Moscow next month.(Courtesy: Russian defence ministry)

The special forces of Russia and Pakistan on Monday began a joint counter-terrorism exercise in the Mineralnye Vody region, weeks ahead of Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Moscow.

The two-week exercise, the second in the Druzhba (friendship) series, will focus on counter-terrorism operations, hostage rescue and cordon and search operations, the media wing of the Pakistani military said.

“The joint exercise will enhance and further strengthen military ties between both the countries and share Pakistan Army’s experience in the war against terrorism,” the military said in a statement. The opening ceremony of the exercise was attended by senior military officials of both countries.

Last year’s edition of the Druzhba exercise, the first ever between the two Cold War rivals, was marred by controversy as reports suggested part of the high altitude drill was conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan, territory that is claimed by India.

The reports embarrassed Russia, a long-time ally of India, and Russian officials issued several denials.

Pakistani special forces interact with their Russian counterparts during the Druzhba 2017 joint exercise that began in Russia on September 25, 2017. (Courtesy: Russian defence ministry)

Relations between Russia and Pakistan had been frosty in the decades after the war against Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan had been a key conduit for shipping US arms and supplies to the Afghan mujahideen.

However, defence ties between the two sides were strengthened during the tenure of former Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. With Russia miffed by India turning to the US and other Western suppliers for military hardware, it also broadened its economic cooperation with Pakistan in recent years.

In 2015, Pakistan and Russia finalised a deal for four Mi-35 attack helicopters – a move that angered India. Since then, reports have suggested Pakistan is interested in acquiring more military gear from Russia, including Su-35 combat jets.

Bajwa is expected to visit Russia in the first week of October as part of high-level exchanges between the two sides. His visit will set the stage for “translating political goodwill into a substantial partnership, in particular, in the field of defence”, Pakistan’s Foreign Office has said.

First Published: Sep 25, 2017 18:52 IST