In the midst of tensions between their two nations, troops from India and Pakistan are expected to join the defence personnel from six other countries to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) military drills to counterterrorism to be held in Russia next month.

It is learnt that contingents from India, Pakistan, Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are to take part in the drills involving around 128, 000 servicemen, over 20, 000 units and weapons and military hardware, 600 aircraft systems and up to 15 ships and logistics vessels. Moscow has also invited Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Belarus and Iran, which are associated with the SCO in one way or another, to send their troops for the exercises.

The first such exercises were undertaken by the eight SCO countries in August last year. Those exercises marked the first time India and Pakistan trained together. The two sides even competed in a volleyball match.

The upcoming exercises called ‘Tsentr (Centre) 2019’ are tentatively scheduled to be held from 10-21 September at Orenburg in southwest Russia. The exercises will work on demonstrating the employment of forces of coalition states in countering international terrorism and providing military security in the Central Asian region.

About 140 troops of the Indian Army are expected to participate in the drills. The Indian Army is ensuring that its contingent undergoes a comprehensive training programme for the exercises so that it has a high level of physical fitness and is well knowledgeable of tactical drills and procedures. A programme on cybersecurity will also be conducted for the contingent.

The exercises will take place in two phases. The first stage will involve drills for combating terrorism, repelling airstrikes and conducting reconnaissance. The second phase will focus on managing troops during fire strikes and attacking simulated enemies.

The military drills will take place at a time when the relations between India and Pakistan have hit rock bottom following the Modi government’s decision to withdraw the special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcate it into two Union Territories earlier this month. The move created an uproar in Pakistan with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying it would have serious repercussions.