The two-week exercise commenced this morning at the Special Forces Training School in Bakloh, Himachal Pradesh. It is an annual event conducted alternatively in both the countries.
The SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov has said that issues between India and Pakistan should be resolved bilaterally and their participation in the security grouping could become “impossible” without a commitment for an “unconditional” fight against terror and separatism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was established in Shanghai in 2001 with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as founding members. It was expanded in 2017 with the inclusion of India and Pakistan.
Addressing his first press conference here on Wednesday after assuming charge, Norov said that the Pulwama terror attack was a “direct provocation” by the opponents of peace between India and Pakistan.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the Pulwama terror attack claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that left over 44 CRPF personnel dead.
Following this, India carried out “non-military pre-emptive” airstrikes targeting the JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early on February 26, killing a “very large number” of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders.
“The recent situation between India and Pakistan, which has resulted in human casualties, I would like to note that there has been a direct provocation by the opponents of the Indo-Pakistani accord and peace,” Norov, who was the former Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, said in response to questions.
Asked how the security bloc mechanism could be used to resolve the recent tensions between India and Pakistan, he said: “before joining the SCO as full members, India and Pakistan committed themselves to strictly implement all the provisions of the legal framework that has been developed by the Member States of the Organisation”.
“One of the such fundamental obligation is not to bring bilateral contradictions and disagreements to the SCO family, as the group is not engaged in the settlement of disputable bilateral issues, whether border, water or other topics in relations between individual Member States,” he said.
These issues must be resolved and are being resolved through bilateral consultations and dialogue, goodwill and mutual reasonable compromises, he said.
“The most important condition for participation in a multi-disciplinary cooperation within the SCO is the commitment to unconditional and consistent struggle against terrorism, separatism and extremism. Otherwise, it would be impossible for the two states to participate in the SCO,” Norov said.
The whole world has heard clear signals from the parties not to escalate relations and their readiness to fully understand and follow the principles established within the organisation, he said.
“In addition, to offer mediation of the member states of the organization as there is an intention to resolve the differences in a bilateral format,” Norov said.
After joining the SCO, India and Pakistan have common ground and are ready to work in the SCO format to ensure regional security, joint counteraction to complex challenges and threats, sustainable socio-economic development, he said.
This was stated by the leaders of India and Pakistan at last year’s SCO summit in Qingdao in particular their intention to play an active and constructive role in the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group as peace and stability in Afghanistan is a matter of common concern for all the SCO countries, he said.
Both India and Pakistan participated in the activities of the SCO as observers for 12 years and their accession to the SCO was preceded by a fairly long preparatory stage, he said.
At present, representatives of India and Pakistan are actively working in two permanent bodies of the organisation which included the SCO Secretariat and the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), Norov said, adding that the Indian and Pakistani sides also take part in the activities of all 29 SCO working mechanisms of the SCO.
Also over 300 military personnel of India and Pakistan took part in the international anti-terrorist exercises “Peace Mission-2018”, which took place at the at Chelyabinsk region of Russia last year.
This “testifies to the joint and effective work of these two countries within the SCO,” Norov said.
The counter-terrorism exercises are due to be held this year again.
The SCO will hold its summit in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, in June this year.
Norov said the admission into the SCO of the “two large and influential states of South Asia” is of particular importance for the organisation and for the Eurasian region, as well to India and Pakistan themselves.
“Being at the same negotiating table, and on a regular basis and in different formats, India and Pakistan are now in the process of a permanent dialogue on all issues which are currently in the agenda of the SCO,” he said.
He said that with the admission of India and Pakistan, the SCO has acquired a trans-regional character and in terms of its aggregate potential, the total population, territory, reserves of natural resources, GDP, it has become the largest organisation not only in the region, but also in the world.
Many experts note that the SCO should be among the main “supporting structures” of the future world order, he said.
Norov said that the SCO Charter defines joint counteraction to terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations as one of the important tasks.
Countering terrorism, separatism and extremism in particular in identifying, preventing and suppressing the manifestations of these “three forces of evil” in the territories of the group’s member states has become a major work of the organisation, he added.
(With agency inputs)