Amid ongoing tensions between them, India and Pakistan will participate in a joint counter-terrorism exercise to be hosted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) later this year.
The joint military exercise is expected to take place in Kazakhstan’s Sary Arka region as part of the SCO’s agenda to combat common challenges and threats, informed sources said ahead of the SCO Summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on 13-14 June. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the Indian delegation at the summit.
India and Pakistan together became full-fledged members of the SCO, a China-dominated regional security grouping, in 2017.
The two nations had also taken part in an SCO joint military exercise in 2017 which took place in Russia. The exercise witnessed the participation of troops from India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which together constitute the SCO.
Sources said SCO’s Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS) was currently in the process of finalising the dates for the exercise in consultation with all SCO member states. The exercise could be held as early as September. In fact, there were some other defence-related activities also planned between SCO member countries this year, sources added, without elaborating further.
Meanwhile, RATS has been insisting that all member countries of the SCO, including India and Pakistan, must give an unconditional commitment to terrorism and separatism.
Terrorism would be high on the agenda of the summit in Bishkek. PM Modi is expected to highlight India’s concern over terrorism and call for a concerted global campaign against the menace.
The summit will also be attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. This will be the first time that Modi and Khan will come face-to-face. Speculation is rife on whether Modi will shake hands with his Pakistani counterpart or pull him aside for a brief interaction. India has already ruled out a formal bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the margins of the summit.
Tensions between the two nations escalated after the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were martyred after a suicide bomber blew up an Indian paramilitary convoy carrying personnel to Kashmir on 14 February.
Pakistan based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) took the responsibility for the attack. Following the Pulwama attack, India carried out air strikes in Balakot, Pakistan, targeting the biggest JeM training camp, killing a number of terrorists and trainers.
The situation after the terror attack further worsened when the Pakistani Air Force tried to target Indian military establishments, the day after India conducted air strikes.