First Russian-Pakistani Military Exercises: Changing Places

On September 24, 2016, the first joint Russian-Pakistani military exercises began. Their declared aim is strengthening and development of the military cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries. These plans raised concerns in India, but Moscow has assured New Delhi that the exercises will not take place in areas that are the subject of territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.

"We received information from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation that the exercises will not take place in such areas, a place was chosen that has nothing to do with these areas (disputed territories). Therefore, the Indian side has no grounds to worry about it "- said Zamir Kabulov, head of the Second Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, commenting Indian media reports.

The Russian-Pakistani military cooperation is a relatively new phenomenon.

"When in 1947 there was the partition of [British] India into two independent states - Pakistan and India - the Soviet Union was in a dilemma. Between 1947 and 1955 Moscow made the historic choice in favor of India, - said Tatyana Shaumyan, head of the Centre of Indian Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. Pakistan, too, also made a historic choice in favor of cooperation with the United States. It all happened during the Cold War. Subsequently, we were accused that the Soviet Union looked at Pakistan through the "Indian glasses". And so it was."

Currently Russia is developing relations with both India and Pakistan. Moreover, Moscow tries to integrate two states into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. However, it is clear that Washington's relationship with Pakistan does not play the same role as during the Cold War, and the US relies more on cooperation with India.

According to Alexei Fenenko, Leading Research Fellow at the Institute of International Security Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, the US strategic goal is to unite the legacy of the British Empire in South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) into a single bloc to counterweight the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Thus India is actively involved in the US projects.

"Over the past 12 years India's overall strategic course was a gradual turn toward the United States and NATO countries", - Fenenko said. The beginning of this reversal was the conclusion of the US-India nuclear deal a decade ago. In autumn of 2011 India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement through the US mediation.

The Russian-Pakistani military exercises predictably displeased India. "But on the other hand, India is conducting naval exercises with the United States, Australia, and Japan. Why should we not do this?"- Fenenko asked.

Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, pointed out that the extremely negative reaction in India was caused by the initially voiced plans to conduct Russia-Pakistan exercises.

"The exercises themselves do not really matter; the problem is that when the original decision was announced, one of the areas where they were to be held was the occupied Kashmir. Now, if you keep an eye on the press releases that are coming out, the exercises in this area will not take place. But the fact that Russia in principle agreed to this, apparently without thinking over, caused quite a lot of irritation, "- he said in an interview to

It should be noted that previous Pakistani attempts to attract Russia to a multilateral dialogue on security issues were not successful. At the time, Russia has responded to the US-India rapprochement by establishment of the "Dushanbe Four" forum. "In 2012 it was dissolved, but the idea that an Indian pivot toward the US can be balanced by the cooperation with Pakistan remained" – Fenenko said.

Moreover, it should be noted that Pakistan continues to remain a fragile state. From the territory of Pakistan militants continue to infiltrate into neighboring states,"- said Shaumyan. - But at what extent the Pakistani leadership can actually control this border? To what extent can it influence the militants?" No one can give answers to these questions.

The first joint Russian-Pakistani military exercises will be held at the Cherat training area (100 kilometers west of Islamabad) up to October 10, 2016.

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