Pakistan and Russia are set to hold their first ever joint military exercise, which is dubbed Friendship 2016.
Pakistan's top military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said on Friday that a "contingent of Russian ground forces" had arrived in Pakistan for the two-week drill, which will begin on Saturday.
The joint military exercise will take place in mountainous areas with about 200 military personnel from both sides involved, Pakistani media reported.
Observers say the joint military exercise may be another clear sign of the gradual, yet complicated, shifting of alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States have cooled recently, while ties between India and the US have warmed up. Despite the long-standing cordial relationship between Russia and India, New Delhi’s improved relations with the West have apparently prompted Moscow to approach Islamabad.
India has even requested Russia not to take part in the joint exercise. Moscow has rejected the request.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah said earlier this month that in response to current geostrategic developments, the two sides had agreed “to broaden defense and military-technical cooperation.”
In late August, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan General Rashad Mahmood to discuss deepening military cooperation between the two countries. “The development of constructive relations between Russia and Pakistan is an important factor in ensuring regional stability and international security,” Gerasimov told reporters.
Gerasimov also emphasized that Russia and Pakistan were planning an “intensive program” of joint activities in the months ahead including more military exercises, military exchanges, and talks at the general staff level.
Last year, Russia and Pakistan concluded an agreement over the purchase of four Mi-35M attack helicopters. The Russian helicopter is planned to replace Pakistan’s fleet of US-made AH-1 Cobra helicopters.