Is this a first?: India and Pakistan together on military exercise in Russia

Pakistan Rangers, left, and Indian Border Security Force personnel take part in the daily flag lowering ceremony at their joint border post of Wagah near Lahore. For the first time in their history, Pakistan and India, are getting ready to participate together in a multination counter terrorism military drill organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) scheduled to be held in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in September. (REUTERS/file)
Updated 13 June 2018
0

Is this a first?: India and Pakistan together on military exercise in Russia

  • First participation of two bitter enemies seen as historic and an opportunity to learn.
  • Pakistan and India became member states of SCO in 2017.

ISLAMABAD: In what is being hailed as historic, South Asian nuclear arch-rivals Pakistan and India are getting ready to participate in a multinational counterterrorism military drill organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
The drill is scheduled to be held in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in September. Both nations, born a day apart seven decades ago, have fought four wars but, it is thought, have never engaged in combined security exercises.
Security analyst Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal brushed off the hype and told Arab News this would not be the first time Pakistani and Indian troops have worked together. “Soldiers of both armies have worked side by side for UN peacekeeping mission operations. The two armed forces are professional and with other nations participating, the training will certainly have its benefits.”
Khalid Muhammad, director general of Command Eleven, an Islamabad-based consulting and advisory firm focused on national security, counter-terrorism and counter-insurgencies, told Arab News that the interaction between the rival nation armies also presents an opportunity to learn from the Pak-army’s experiences.
“Russia, a long-time Indian ally (until recently), and China, a long-time Pakistan ally, are also part of the exercise, so we can assume that they will ensure that both nations stay on course with the exercise.”
The SCO, spearheaded by China and described as a Eurasian security, economic, and political organization, was founded in 2001 with striking similarities to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It has eight member and six observer states.
Pakistan and India became observers in 2005 and full members in 2017. The organization’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure holds biannual security training to increase counterterrorism efficiency, cooperation and coordination between member states.
Armed forces of all member states are expected to participate in the 2018 Peace Mission training.
India confirmed its participation in April. Addressing the SCO council, Indian defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Cooperation within the SCO framework will help further strengthen India’s bilateral defense ties in the region.” Indian troops, largely from five Rajput regiments, and its Air Force officers are expected to participate, a report citing an unnamed source suggested.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has yet to formally announce its participation. In February, Qazi M. Khalilullah, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Russia, told a state-owned news agency in Moscow that Pakistan “intend[s] on participating in the exercises this year.”
The issues between both countries continue to go on unresolved. Despite both nations agreeing, last month, to implement the 2003 cease-fire agreement, intense cross-border skirmishes, especially over disputed Kashmir, have prevailed, leaving an aura of tension between both nations.
“Will there be hostilities between both? Definitely — but that is the reason China and Russia are involved. Terrorism has plagued both Pakistan and India, no matter whose soil it comes from. This (SCO) is an opportunity, a first step between both nations,” said Muhammad.


Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

Updated 24 June 2018
0

Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

  • Former PM Nawaz Sharif may not be able to spearhead PML-N's election campaign
  • The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday

ISLAMABAD: The electoral success of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hangs in the balance as its most charismatic leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is outside the country and may not lead his party’s campaign ahead of the July 25 polls, analysts say.
“If Sharif doesn’t return from London to Pakistan by next week, his party may face huge losses in the upcoming elections,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday.
The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” Malik said.
Sharif is in London visiting his wife Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, who has been on a ventilator since June 14 and has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer since August 2017.
“Do you think it is appropriate for me to return to Pakistan when Begum Kalsoom is fighting for life?” Sharif asked on Saturday.
He said he had planned a four-day trip to London, but is now unsure about returning to Pakistan due to her health. Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been in the UK since June 15.
“The Sharif family is passing through a difficult time, and the situation could adversely impact their party’s electoral prospects,” Malik said.
An accountability court hearing three separate corruption references against Sharif, Nawaz and others is scheduled to conclude the trial by July 9, as per the Supreme Court’s instructions.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding the prime minister’s office, and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file corruption references against him and his family members.
“Even after being disqualified from holding any public office, Sharif still enjoys public support,” political analyst Rasul Bukhsh Rais told Arab News.
But if the accountability court convicts Sharif in the graft cases before the elections, this would demoralize his party and PML-N voters, Rais said.
His younger brother, who has become the party’s president after Sharif’s disqualification, “may not be able to run an effective election campaign,” Rais added.
Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, the PML-N’s information secretary, said Sharif and his daughter will return to Pakistan to lead the party’s election campaign once his wife’s health improves.
“Our detractors will be disappointed. The PML-N will win a clear majority in the elections under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif,” Khan told Arab News.