Rawalpindi—A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived in Pakistan on Friday for the first ever joint Pak-Russian exercise kicking off from today.
The two-week-long exercise is expected to continue until Oct 10, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Bajwa said. The exercises with Russian ground forces come at a time when tensions between Pakistan and India are running high following an attack on the Uri military camp in India-held Kashmir.
Around 200 military personnel of both countries will participate in the drills. The exercise is being seen as a demonstration of closer defence ties between Pakistan and Russia after they signed a military cooperation pact in 2014.
The joint military drill is seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said about 70 mountain infantry troops arrived in Pakistan Friday to participate in the exercise. The ministry said the drills starting Saturday will help “develop and strengthen military cooperation between the two countries.”
The maneuvers coincide with a Russian-Indian military exercise launched Thursday at a military shooting range in Russia’s far east, which involve 250 troops from each side.
Moscow and New Delhi maintained close political and military ties during the Cold War, while the U.S. backed Pakistan. India has remained a top customer for Russian weapons, but Moscow has also sought to develop ties with Pakistan.
Following the Uri attack in held-Kashmir, several Indian news sources claimed that Russia had called off the joint war games with Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah on Monday denied that Russia had cancelled planned joint military drills.
The military drills between the two former Cold War rivals — named ‘Friendship 2016’ — will start from September 24 and continue till October 7.