In a significant development with ramifications in the southern Asian region, Pakistan and Russia are set to hold their first-ever joint military exercises later this year. The joint military exercise between the two former Cold War rivals reflects increased military cooperation between the two.
Around 200 military personnel from the two sides would take part in the joint military exercises, as per the reports in Pakistan daily The Express Tribune.
The move comes amidst increasing defence ties between Moscow and Islamabad as the latter was also thinking to buy advanced Russian warplanes.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Moscow Qazi Khalilullah told the newspaper that this is the first time that military personnel from the two countries would be taking part in joint military drills called ‘Friendship-2016’. He, however, did not divulge further details about the nature of the exercises or dates.
The development, according to the Pakistan diplomat, reflected increased cooperation between the two countries.
“This obviously indicates a desire on both sides to broaden defence and military-technical cooperation,” he told a Russian news agency last week.
The joint military drill is seen as a crucial step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries, whose ties had been marred by Cold War rivalry for decades, the paper said.
Islamabad decided to broaden its foreign policy options after its relations with the US deteriorated after secret CIA raid in Abbottabad killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Also, Pakistan’s relations with the US were soured recently when US lawmakers blocked funds for the sale of eight Lockheed Martin Corporations F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. It then decided to look at alternative sources to purchase the aircraft including from Jordan.
Over the last 15 months, the chiefs of Pakistan’s Army, Navy and Air Force travelled to Russia. The flurry of high-level exchanges between the two nations resulted in the signing of a deal for the sale of four MI-35 attack helicopters to Islamabad.
The formal agreement, which was signed in Moscow in August 2015, was considered a major policy shift on part of Russia in the wake of growing strategic partnership between the US and India.
(With inputs from the PTI)