A large-scale anti-terrorism military exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), codenamed “Peace Mission”, will be held in Russia next month, with all SCO member states planning to take part in it.
It is noteworthy that India and Pakistan, who newly joined the organization, will both send troops to join the exercise. This is the first time the two countries have taken part in joint military exercise at the same time since their independence, which attracted much attention.
The exercise is initiated by the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (RATS SCO) with the goal of responding to terrorism and extremism by expanding cooperation among member states.
At present, India and Pakistan have clearly expressed their intention to send troops to take part in the exercise. According to Indian official sources, India will send about 200 Army and Air Force personnel to participate in this exercise.
According to an Indian military officer cited by the New Delhi TV website, the main goal of India’s participation in the exercise is to strengthen cooperation with SCO member states and jointly cope with challenges posed by terrorism and extremism.
During the exercise, officers and soldiers from different countries may hold discussions focusing on those issues including how to strengthen cooperation, prevent the spread of terrorist ideology, and eliminate factors favoring terrorism and extremism, the officer added.
India and Pakistan have been hostile to each other for many years. In the past decade, crossfire incidents occurred almost every week along Kashmir’s Line of Control. Therefore, as India and Pakistan’s first joint military exercise after their independence, this exercise will be of certain significance to the alleviation of the tension on the India-Pakistan border.
Some military observers pointed out that conflicts have been commonplace between India and Pakistan for a long time. Numerous exchange mechanisms between the two countries have been interrupted due to border clashes. The SCO military exercise can promote positive interactions between the two militaries and help to ease tension between the two countries.
Pakistan has also expressed its approval of this development. A report issued by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British think tank, quoted the words of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army, who said that one of Pakistan’s ways to achieve peace may be establishing military cooperative relationship with India. The report also pointed out that the Pakistani military may also take other approaches to seek dialogues with India on peace and stability.
Although this is the first time that India and Pakistan have taken part in a joint military exercise since their independence, in fact, the militaries of the two countries have cooperated many times in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions.
According to data from the database of UN peacekeeping operations, India and Pakistan have been important troop contributors to UN missions, and in the past few decades, the two countries have completed 28 missions together.
In 2005, India and Pakistan were taken in as observer states of the SCO. The year of 2017 witnessed the two countries’ inclusion as full members of the SCO, which marked the organization’s first expansion.
Disclaimer: The author is Zhao Xu. The article was published on the PLA Daily on July 19. It is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online.