NEW DELHI: In a significant decision, the Russian Government has decided not to hold any more bilateral military exercises with Pakistan. The decision was taken by Moscow given the strong reactions from India after Russia conducted a counter-terrorism military exercise with Pakistan in that country just about the time when India conducted surgical strikes along the Line of Control. Russian sources also clarified that they believe Pakistan is a breeding ground for terrorism and Moscow will strongly support India in its fight against terrorism.
“For better trust and understanding we do not plan to repeat such exercises with Pakistan as it was not received well in India,” highly-placed sources in the Russian Government told The Pioneer.
Russia conducted its first-ever military exercise with Pakistan, called Druzhba 2016. Pakistani media claimed that the exercise was to be held in Rattu in Gilgit Baltistan area of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which was promptly denied by Russia, saying the military exercise was planned in advance to be held at Special Forces Academy in Cherat which was nowhere close to POK. Russia claimed the exercise was meant to improve efficiency of its own security forces in mountainous areas and counter-terror operations, apart from making an assessment of the situation in Pakistan.
“The Russia-Pak joint military exercise coincided with an attack in Uri, which of course was not good. But who knew that this barbaric attack would be happening around the same time,” said a Russian official.
“From our side this military exercise was directed to see how Pakistan can tackle terror problems and their level of preparedness. We know several terrorists live in Pakistan who attempt to harm India from time to time. We do not want Pakistan to be a breeding ground for terrorism. We wanted to be on the spot to assess the situation and correct it if possible,” the source added.
At the same time, ISIS is a big concern for Russia which believes that it can take help from Taliban or other terror groups in the region. “We do not want Afghanistan to have terror launch pads against Russia,” sources said.
They pointed out that late Russian Ambassador Alexander M Kadakin was the first to react against the heinous terror attacks in India and support surgical strikes.
However, the exercise took place shortly after the terror attack on India’s military camp in Uri in Jammu & Kashmir and its timing was also close to surgical strikes by Indian Special Forces against Pakistan-based terrorist launching pads along the LoC.
Ahead of India-Russia annual bilateral Summit in Goa last year, India conveyed its opposition to Russia over the joint exercises with Pakistan. “We have conveyed our views to the Russian side that military cooperation with Pakistan which is a State that sponsors and practices terrorism as a matter of State policy is a wrong approach and it will only create further problems,” Indian Ambassador to Moscow Pankaj Saran reportedly told Russian authorities while apprising them of Indian sensitivities.
The Russian side also expressed displeasure over the stories “planted” in Pakistani media to create fissures in India-Russia relationship. “Our relationship with India has been historically special and it will remain special. Nothing can come in between the two nations. There should be no doubt anywhere about this. Our priorities are clear and we will work for the interest of India,” said the source adding the time-tested relationship will stand the test of time.
Meanwhile, defending Russia’s move to supply four transport helicopters to Pakistan, sources said these are for humanitarian purpose and Russia will keep an eye if they are used in offensive operations. Officials also dismissed reports about Russia supplying Su-35 fighter planes to Pakistan or having any involvement in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.