The Russian Embassy in Delhi has denied a Russian news agency Tass report about the first-ever joint military exercise between Russia and Pakistan opening at Rattu in Gilgit-Baltistan and described it as “erroneous” and “mischievous”.
In a statement, the Embassy said that “the Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. The only venue of the exercise is Cherat.” This is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 34 miles south-east from Peshawar.
Following the embassy’s clarification, Tass edited its online story to remove the quote it had attributed to the Russian Southern Military Command’s press service mentioning Pakistan Army’s High Altitude School at Rattu in Gilgit-Baltistan as being the venue for the “opening ceremony drills.”
India considers Gilgit-Baltistan to be part of its territories under illegal occupation of Pakistan.
Tass had reported that about 70 Russian troops arrived at Rawalpindi in Pakistan on an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane on Friday to take part in Friendship 2016, a two-week military exercise with Pakistan.
Tass quoting the Russian Southern Military Command’s press service also said that “the Russian and Pakistani military servicemen will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups.”
The report has taken the MEA and the Ministry of Defence by surprise. In a statement tweeted by MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Tuesday, Russia had strongly condemned the terrorist attack on the Indian military unit. The Russian message said that “it is alarming, and according to New Delhi, the attack on military unit near the town of Uri was committed from the territory of Pakistan.”
According to Russian new agency, RIA Novosti, Moscow informed New Delhi of the scheduled joint exercise with Pakistan and said they would not concern India, considering that they are conducted far from disputed territories, Zamir Kabulov, the chief of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Middle East department had told RIA Novosti.
Significantly, the eighth edition of the Indo-Russia joint military exercise ‘Indra 2016’ was flagged off in Vladivostok in Russia on Friday. Indra is a biannual exercise which has been carried out between the two time-tested partners since 2003. This year, the focus is on Counterterrorism Operations in Semi Mountainous and Jungle Terrain under United Nations Mandate.
A total of 250 troops from the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army and an equal number of Russian troops from the 59th Motorised Infantry are participating in the joint exercise. The Indian Army contingent reached Vladivostok on September 21. The 11-day exercise being conducted at the Sergiveskey of the Russian Federation is being held from September 22 to October 2.