New Delhi/Islamabad | Russia tonight rubbished media reports that its troops will be holding joint military exercises with Pakistani forces in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a part of Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and said the anti-terror drills will take place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.
The denial came as Russian troops arrived in Islamabad today for the first-ever joint exercises with Pakistani forces from tomorrow under the name ‘Friendship-2016′, reflecting growing military ties between the two countries.
“Contrary to some reports appearing in a section of the press, the Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan,” said a statement by the Russian Embassy in New Delhi.
“The only venue of the exercise is Cherat,” the statement added, referring to a place in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa. Cherat lies 34 miles south east from Peshawar.
“All reports alleging the drills taking place at the High Altitude Military School in Rattu are erroneous and mischievous,” the Russian Embassy said.
Earlier, media reports from Islamabad said the exercises will take place at Pakistan Army’s High Altitude School in Rattu in Gilgit-Baltistan.
About 200 troops from the two countries will take part in the two-week long military drills called as ‘Friendship 2016′, which have been termed as a sign of growing military ties between the former rivals of Cold war era.
“A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived in Pakistan for first ever Pak-Russian joint exercise from September 24 to October 10,” army spokesman Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted along with some photographs of the Russian and Pakistan troops.
A statement by Russia’s Southern Military Command said the drills will involve over 70 servicemen of the Southern Military Command, including the Mountain Mobile Brigade’s personnel deployed to the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic (North Caucasus), and also officers from the headquarters’ staff.
“The Southern Military Command’s mechanised infantry servicemen are fully equipped and have their mountain gear with them, as well as ammunition for their standard weapons,” Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing the statement.
The two militaries will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups, it said.
“The joint military drills are aimed at bolstering and building up military cooperation between the two countries,” it said.
The joint drill is seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries, whose ties had been marred by Cold War rivalry for decades.