NEW DELHI: Even as a worried world heaved a sigh of relief with the historic embrace of estranged Korean leaders, there could be good news with groundbreaking developments in nuclear-armed South Asia when Indian and Pakistani troops for the first time participate in a joint exercise in Russia under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in September, Indian reports said on Sunday.

Troops from the two countries have sometimes come together in peacekeeping assignments with the UN but they haven’t been in a military exercise like the one they would be participating in with Russia and China among other SCO members.

Reports quoted officials as citing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as confirming India’s presence in the anti-terrorism exercises during the SCO defence ministers’ meeting in Beijing last week.

Reports said the drill would also see the resumption of bilateral military exercise between India and China, which was suspended last year following the 73-day Doklam standoff.

At the informal meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two leaders asked their militaries to strengthen communication, build trust and mutual understanding and “enhance predictability” and “effectiveness” in managing border affairs.

Termed “Peace Mission”, the military exercise will be held at the Ural mountains of Russia and its main aim will be to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation among the eight SCO member countries.

While both sides allege repeated ceasefire violations across the Line of Control that have seen relations between the countries on a free fall, the participation in a joint military exercise is being seen by the Indian media as a positive step.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2018

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