Region’s top militaries meet in SCO anti-terrorism drill
Rare occasion when militaries of four key powers – China, Russia, India and Pakistan – hone skills in one exercise
Having just joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in September last year, India and Pakistan are dispatching anti-terrorism squads to take part in a major exercise held under the SCO charter.
The joint drill, “Peace Mission 2018,” commenced on Wednesday in Russia and will last until the end of the month, during which no fewer than 3,000 troops from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India and Pakistan, as well as 10 representatives from Uzbekistan, will compare notes on strategies, training, deployment and logistical support for counterterrorism.
The drill will cover field reconnaissance, joint strikes, and mock shoot-outs in residential areas.
Indian soldiers have already arrived in Russia, the Indian Air Force tweeted on Tuesday: “New place, new environment, different language. But it took just a few moments to start understanding each other.”
Analysts say the drill will also help mend ties between India and Pakistan and in turn foster regional stability for South Asia.
Some 700 Chinese soldiers from an armored tank battle group, an air combat group and a special-forces unit also descended on the Chebarkul airbase in Russia last weekend.
The SCO was established in Shanghai in 2001 under the auspices of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as founding members.
Afghanistan, currently an observer country, is tipped to join the SCO as well.
One of the organization’s key objectives is to obliterate terrorist groups in a region faced with increasingly complicated geopolitical issues that could be exploited by terrorists to foment trouble.
Military exercises among SCO member countries are regularly conducted under the counterterrorism rubric, and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, has been set up as a permanent organ of the SCO to promote cooperation against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
The Diplomat reported in 2017 that the SCO had foiled 600 terror plots and extradited 500 terrorists through its RATS unit.
Meanwhile, China and India have vowed to build up trust between their militaries to prevent conflicts along their long shared border, during a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
Wei is also scheduled to meet with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the visit.