LAHORE - Strategic cooperation between Pakistan and Russian Armed Forces has touched a new peak, as their troops hold joint military exercises, from 1-12 October, at the Molkino Training Range in the Southern Krasnodar region, well-informed sources confided to The Nation.

A high-level Pakistani military delegation is understood to have been in Moscow to give final touches to the ongoing joint military exercises, besides exploring Russian weapon systems, these sources revealed.

These exercises have been named ‘Friendship 2019’ by the two sides and a formal statement to this effect was issued by the Russian Defence Ministry on July 25 last. The first joint war games were held in 2016.

The joint drill would be held to benefit from each other’s experience which would involve special services groups which would perform combat training programmes. Pakistani troops would be using Russian weaponry for first the time.

A fairly good number of Pakistan Army officers have since been trained in different military disciplines.

It is learnt that 47 Pak troops are participating in the joint exercises.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is the moving spirit behind rapidly developing military-to-military relations between two most professional armies. These efforts may soon culminate into a new military alliance in the region.

To achieve this objective, Gen Bajwa laid the foundation of Pak-Russian military cooperation when he undertook a journey to Russian Federation on April 24 last year.

The COAS had marathon discussions with his Russian Counterpart, Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, Commander Russian Federation Ground Forces at Kremlin Palace.

It was on this occasion that Gen Salyukov declared that Pakistan was a geo-strategically important country and Russia was keen to develop and expand its existing bilateral military to military cooperation.

Gen Salyukov paid a return visit to Islamabad in July this year and had a follow-up meeting with Gen Bajwa at the General Headquarters. This interaction between two top military leaders of Pakistan and Russia had led to opening of new vistas of cooperation between two professional armies.

Gen Salyukov open-heartedly praised and appreciated Pak Army’s professionalism and achievement in International war against terrorism expressing his keen desire to forge and expand broad-based military relations with Pakistan.

Defence analysts are of the view that Russia feels hurt and disappointed with Indian betrayal to have joined the American camp despite being its longstanding defence and strategic partner. In their opinion Moscow did not hesitate to explore its available options.

They say both India and the United States must be apprehensive of rapidly expanding Pak-Russia military cooperation.