In a first, rivals India and Pakistan will be part of a multi-nation counter-terror exercise in Russia in September, which will also be joined by China and several other countries.

The military exercise will take place under the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a China-dominated security grouping which is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO, officials said.

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They said the military drill will be held in the Ural mountains of Russia and almost all SCO member countries will be part of it.

They said the main aim of the exercise, Peace Mission, will be to enhance counter-terror cooperation among the eight SCO member countries.

The officials said India’s participation at the exercise was confirmed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during a meeting of SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Beijing last week.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at SCO meeting in Beijing had said, “”India will participate strongly in SCO’s Peace Mission joint military exercises being held in Russia later this year. We believe that cooperation in SCO framework will help further strengthen India’s bilateral defence ties in the region”.

It will be for the first time since Independence that India and Pakistan will both be part of a military exercise, though the armies of the two nations have worked together in UN peace keeping missions, they said.

The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

India and Pakistan were admitted as observers of the grouping in 2005. Both the countries were admitted as full members of the bloc last year.

India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. With expansion of the grouping, SCO now represents over 40 per cent of humanity and nearly 20 per cent of the global GDP.

India feels that as an SCO member, it will be able to play a major role in addressing the threat of terrorism in the region. It is also keen on deepening its security-related cooperation with the SCO and its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) which specifically deals with issues relating to security and defence.

India-China military excercise

Suspended after the Doklam face-off, the bilateral military exercise of India and China is likely to resume this year, in sync with renewed efforts by both the countries to reset ties hit by a tense standoff between their troops, according to government sources.

The exercise ‘Hand-in-Hand’ between the armies of the two countries will take place within next 4-5 months in China and an announcement is likely to be made very soon, sources told PTI.

It is learnt that the issue of resumption of the annual exercise had figured during talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe in Beijing.

(with agency inputs)