ISLAMABAD: A Russian ground forces contingent today arrived in Pakistan to participate in the first-ever joint military exercises starting from tomorrow, reflecting growing military ties between the two former Cold War rivals.
“A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived in Pakistan for first ever Pak-Russian joint exercise,” army spokesman Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa said.
The Russian troops will be in the country for two weeks from September 24 to October 10.
About 200 troops from the two countries will take part in the two-week long military drills called as ‘Friendship 2016’, which have been termed as a sign of growing military ties between the former rivals of Cold war era.
The move comes amidst increasing defense ties between Moscow and Islamabad as the latter was also thinking to buy advanced Russian warplanes.
The joint drill is seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries, whose ties had been marred by Cold War rivalry for decades, local media reports said.
Pakistan decided to broaden its foreign policy options after its relations with the US deteriorated following secret CIA raid in Abbottabad that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Its relations with the US were soured recently when US lawmakers blocked funds for the sale of eight Lockheed Martin Corporation s F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
Pakistan decided to look at alternative sources to purchase the aircraft including from Jordan.
Over the last 15 months, the chiefs of Pakistan’s Army, Navy and Air Force travelled to Russia. The flurry of high- level exchanges between the two nations resulted in the signing of a deal for the sale of four MI-35 attack helicopters to Islamabad.
The formal agreement, which was signed in Moscow in August 2015, was considered a major policy shift on part of Russia in the wake of growing strategic partnership between the US and India.
Islamabad is eager to improve its ties with Moscow to diversify its options in the event of any stalemate in ties with Washington, according to the Express Tribune.
After securing a deal of MI-35 helicopters, Pakistan is also exploring options to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, it said. For this purpose, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman visited Moscow in July.–PTI