File image of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries in Russia in 2018 | Photo: Commons
File image of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries in Russia in 2018 | Photo: Commons
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New Delhi: India will send a three-member team to Pakistan for an anti-terror exercise under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) framework that begins later this week. The decision comes nearly a fortnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the challenges of radicalisation have increased after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Sources told ThePrint that while India will “not be participating” in any kind of physical exercise, it will be involved in the process as an “observer” in “gathering intelligence about counterterrorism measures” that the SCO is planning to lay out.

The SCO’s Pabbi Anti-Terror Exercise 2021 will be held from 3-6 October in Nowshera district of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

It could see participation from other SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

According to sources, while no representatives from the Indian armed forces will participate in this, a three-member team from the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) could be sent.

Meanwhile, sources in Pakistan said Islamabad has got confirmation from India that a three-member team will be participating as ‘observers’ and not in the physical exercise.

As an observer, the participants can take part in public meetings without the right to vote, gain access to documents and decisions besides also getting to watch and monitor the drills being conducted. According to the SCO, the observer status shall give no right to take part in the preparation and signing of the documents of the organisation.

Discussions are also on about whether a team should be sent from India or if representatives from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad can participate in the process. It is likely that the Defence Attaché can also represent India.

“This is like a discussion, there won’t be a military exercise, this is intelligence exercise … The programme is still evolving,” said a source, who asked to remain anonymous.

Another source said “no personnel from the Army, Navy or Air Force” will be taking part in the exercise.

Since this is the first time the SCO anti-terror exercise is taking place post the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, India is keen on participating in it despite its tensions with Pakistan, sources said.

Also read: Events in Afghanistan show radicalisation now a bigger challenge, Modi says at SCO summit

Countries should deploy counter-terror mechanisms under SCO

During the last SCO Summit, PM Modi had said it is time the grouping effectively deploys the counter-terrorism mechanisms laid out under the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).

“The RATS mechanism of SCO can play a constructive role in monitoring these flows (drugs, illegal weapons and human trafficking) and enhancing information-sharing. From this month, India is chairing the Council of SCO-RATS. We have developed proposals for practical cooperation on this subject,” Modi said virtually during the summit.

He had also said, “The recent developments in Afghanistan will have the greatest impact on neighbouring countries like us. And, that is why it is necessary to create a regional focus and cooperation on this issue.”

It was in 2018 that India and Pakistan had come together for a joint military exercise under the umbrella of the SCO. However, in August 2020 India withdrew from the SCO 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).

With inputs from Snehesh Alex Phillip

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: Modi’s message to China at virtual SCO summit — respect territorial integrity


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