ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India are taking part in a multinational counterterrorism military drill in Russia notwithstanding escalating border tensions between the two South Asian nuclear-armed rival nations over their Kashmir territorial dispute.
The Pakistani army announced Tuesday the week-long ‘CENTER 2019’ exercise under the umbrella of China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has started in the Russian region of Orenburg.
“The exercise CENTRE aims at evolving drills of the participating armies in the fight against international terrorism ensuring security and stability in the region,” the military’s media wing said in a statement.
The SCO was established in Shanghai in 2001, with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its founding members.
Last year was the first time India and Pakistan had participated in the SCO anti-terror military drills, also hosted by Russia, after becoming full members of the organization in June 2017, though the two rivals have a history of working together under United Nations peacekeeping missions.
However, the current drill comes at a time of increased border tensions between India and Pakistan stemming from recent Indian actions in Kashmir, which both the countries claim in its entirety.
New Delhi abolished a constitutionally provided special autonomy for its administered part of the Himalayan region on August 5, placing millions of Kashmiris under a security lockdown and communications blackout, now into its seventh week, to suppress violent reaction protests.
Islamabad, which also controls a portion of Kashmir, denounced the crackdown and downgraded diplomatic as well as trade ties with New Delhi, demanding India reverse its controversial moves.
The dispute has sparked two wars between India and Pakistan and several limited conflicts since the two countries were partitioned by Britain in 1947,
Indian leaders defend their latest actions in Kashmir, saying they will improve security and bring economic prosperity to India's only Muslim-majority state, where separatist armed groups have waged a violent insurgency for over three decades.
U.S. President Donald Trump says he has been in contact with leaders of both the countries to press them to ease their latest tensions.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will be traveling to New York later this month to address the U.N. General Assembly session.
“I’ll see prime minister Modi and we’ll be meeting with India and Pakistan (prime ministers), and I think a lot of progress has been made there. A lot of progress,” Trump told reporters on Monday. He did not elaborate further.