Russia snubs India; Arrives in Pak for military exercise

Russia Pakistan Military Exercise

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: In a major snub to India, Russian forces arrived in Pakistan for the first Pak-Russian joint exercise. Russia and Pakistan, two Cold War enemies when the former existed as the USSR, came together on Friday for their first-ever joint military exercise called ‘Friendship 2016’ in a development that will be watched keenly in both Delhi.

Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, head of the Pakistani military’s media arm, tweeted photos of the Russian troops after they flew into an airbase in Rawalpindi, squelching speculation that Moscow would call off the wargame in the wake of the terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri .

In March 2010, during his visit to New Delhi, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that “unlike many other countries, Russia does not have any military cooperation with Pakistan because we bear in mind the concerns of our Indian friends”.

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But Russian military cooperation with Pakistan has been increasing over the past few years, with the two countries signing a deal on four Russian Mi-35M attack helicopters last August. In the past 15 months, Pakistani army, navy, and air force chiefs have visited Russia, signalling an upswing in the bilateral military ties

According to Tass, around 70 Russian troops arrived at Rawalpindi in Pakistan on an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane on Friday to take part in Friendship 2016, a two-week military exercise with Pakistan

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The statement said the drill will not be held in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or any “sensitive or problematic” areas like Gilgit-Baltistan. However, this will be of little solace to India who will see this development as a major diplomatic setback.

India considers Gilgit-Baltistan to be part of the territories illegally occupied by Pakistan. A unanimous 1994 Parliamentary resolution mentions the illegal occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan, erstwhile Northern Areas, and Prime MinisterNarendra Modi raised the issue of these territories during his Independence Day speech at the Red Fort.