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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.

Indian Army (representational image) | PTI

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.

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.

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.