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Pak-Russia military drill a shift in regional politics

Pak-Russia military drill a shift in regional politics

Sep 25, 2016 - 09:57

KABUL (Pajhwok): Political experts say the joint military exercise between Russian and Pakistani forces represents a change in regional politics and believe Islamabad could do everything to safeguard its national interest.

Russian troops arrived in Pakistan on Friday to take part in a two-week military exercise, a first in the two countries’ modern history. Moscow and Islamabad were on opposite sides during the Cold War.

Around 70 Russian soldiers and officers along with some 130 Pakistani counterparts are taking part in the war games called ‘Friendship 2016, which kick-started on Saturday.

The name is a symbolical reference to the old Cold War tensions between Moscow and Islamabad, which the two capitals are now trying to overcome.

On Friday, an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane delivered the troops to Pakistan from their home base in southern Russia.

Some Afghan political affairs experts believe Pakistan could do everything for the sake of its national interest.

They say Islamabad was once rival of Russia when it used to be United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) during the cold war era.

Political affairs expert Javed Ghafori said Pakistan’s relations with the US and western countries had declined and Washington’s relations had strengthened with India.

He said Islamabad now wanted to enhance relations with Russia to strengthen its political and defence relationship to fulfill the gap created by its weak ties with the US.

Russian military cooperation with Pakistan has been gaining pace over the past few years, a U-turn from the past, when Islamabad was a key supporter of the insurgency in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.

In 2014, Moscow lifted a longstanding ban on sale of arms to Pakistan. Last year the two countries signed a deal on four Russian Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters, which are meant to replace Pakistan's aging US-made AH-1 Cobras.

Saki Dad Delawar, another political analyst, said Islamabad and Washington relations were no more as good as they had been a decade ago. He said the Pentagon had recently blocked $300 million in military aid to Pakistan and blamed Islamabad for not doing enough against the Haqqani Network that often targeted foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The growing ties between Moscow and Islamabad and their join military drill had increased India’s worries as well.

New Delhi expected Moscow would halt its scheduled military drill in Pakistan in the aftermath of the deadliest attack on an Indian forces base in India-held Kashimir, but Russian went ahead with the plan on and sent it forces to Pakistan, a move which might annoy India.

Moscow informed New Delhi of the scheduled joint exercise with Pakistan, Zamir Kabulov, the chief of Russian Foreign Ministry's Middle East department, told RIA Novosti.

He said Russia was certain the drill would not concern India, considering that they are conducted far from the disputed territories


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