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In a historic first, India could participate in military exercises in Pakistan later this year

Pakistan will hold Pabbi-Antiterror-2021, under the aegis of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation later this year. India's participation would come amid fresh peace process between both nations.

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New Delhi: In yet another signal that frosty ties between New Delhi and Islamabad are thawing, India could take part in a multi-nation exercise to be hosted by Pakistan later this year at its premier anti-terrorism centre in Pabbi in Nowshera district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The exercise will be held under the aegis of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

If the plan goes through, it would be a historic event, given that it would be the first time that Indian forces will travel to Pakistan for any military exercise.

The development comes at a time when Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa last week stressed on the need for India and Pakistan to “bury the past and move forward”. Just weeks ago, the two countries had agreed to observe ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC).

Sources in the know remained non-committal about the actual participation of the Indian troops in the joint exercise “Pabbi-Antiterror-2021”, saying a final decision was yet to be taken.

The sources also said that the proposal is under consideration of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). However, they did confirm that India will be participating in a joint Army exercise under SCO umbrella in Russia later this year.

The decision to hold “Pabbi-Antiterror-2021” was announced during the 36th meeting of the Council of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, last week, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported Sunday.

Delegations of the competent authorities of India, Kazakhstan, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the RATS Executive Committee attended the meeting, Xinhua said, carrying a picture of the participants.

Meanwhile, sources in Pakistan said while dates and participants are yet to be confirmed, the exercise, under the aegis of the inter-governmental organisation comprising eight nations, will be held at the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) Pabbi, near Mangla Cantonment.

A Pakistani delegation had visited Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the SCO in February to finalise the design and preparation of the Army exercise which is likely to be in second half of the year.

Also read: India, Pakistan foreign ministers likely to meet at ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Dushanbe

What is NCTC

National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) imparts specialised pre-induction training to Pakistan Army units earmarked for Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and SWAT. It also offers counter terrorism training services to law enforcement agencies including Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Defence Services Guards, Strategic Plans Division, Punjab Rangers, among others.

The Centre, which was set up in 2014 by then Pakistan Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, also imparts anti-terror training to other countries.

Located near Kharian, a military station and headquarters of an infantry division, the training institution comes under the direct supervision of Kharian Division and Mangla Corps.

Also read: Bajwa’s change of heart on India isn’t enough. All of Pakistani military must be on board

India withdrew from SCO exercise in 2020

India had withdrawn from a multilateral military exercise — Kavkaz-2020 — that was scheduled to be held in southern Russia in September last year as it did not want to perform drills with Chinese soldiers amid tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

While India planned to send 200 military personnel, including 180 soldiers from an infantry battalion and observers from the IAF and the Navy, to take part in the exercise, it decided not to participate at the last minute following a high-level military and diplomatic meeting.

It was in 2018 that India and Pakistan had come together for a joint military exercise under the umbrella of the SCO. At that time, a video of Indian and Pakistani troops dancing together had gone viral.

The SCO was founded in Shanghai in 2001 by the then presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted as observers in 2005 and both countries were admitted as full members of the bloc last year.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

Also read: Why distrust-but-verify is a prudent response to Pakistan Gen Bajwa’s call to bury the past


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  1. It is bad idea to share any Indian experience with Pakistanis or Chinese. They would get to learn how Indian armed forces deal with terrorism problem. Never share tactical details with a sworn enemy like Pakistan.

  2. This would be a great way to bring india from self exile and the encourage it to stop terror funding in the region. I think Sri lanka, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan among others that have been the terget of indian terrorism would appreciate to bring india into the civilized world.

  3. Ooh la la, still there are a lot of people to pedal peace stories with Pakistan and what is surprising is some believe these stories.
    Paki assets in India on full action mode for peace.

  4. The Kashmir issue is the major block for India-Pakistan relations. The issue should be resolved amicably to bring to end the conflict in Kashmir. I hope India-Pakistan will come to a conrete solution rather than adamant attitudes. We need peace and both countries will develop and give a chance to people to people contact, exchange of goods, opening of border for free movement of people and goods. Both the countries should bring end to terrorism. There will be a new chapter of relationship

  5. There is a lot of bad blood between us. But imagine this.. ‘Peace in our lifetime..’
    I know this thought makes hawks on both sides very uncomfortable, because they know once Pakistanis and Indians interact with one another, they will realize how stupid the whole enmity was.
    Let me ask my fellow Pakistanis a question: Imagine sitting between a Chinese and an Indian on a long flight. I bet you will be friends with the Indian by the end of the flight, and you won’t even know which city the Chinese is from.
    Same question to my Indian friends: Imagine sitting between a Pakistani and an American on a long flight. You will run out of things to discuss with the American in 5 minutes, but you will end up exchanging your number with the Pakistani by the end of the flight.
    We can’t let these politicians / military fool us for much longer.

  6. Not only participating in this programme, better drive away Pakistan. Pakistan knows which groups are there here. Also those required for india against Bombay hotel blast hiding in Pakistan must be surrendered

  7. Participation will severely dent India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan. No one will listen to India if India itself is reaching out to Pakistan. Things which looks small can actually have a outsized impact.

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