OCTOBER 2, 2021
NEW DELHI: India is likely to send a 3-member team to participate in a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Pakistan next week, ToI has learnt. The Pabbi Anti-terror Exercise 2021 is being held at Pabbi in Pakistan’s Nowshera district from October 3 under the aegis of SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) which seeks to promote counter-terrorism cooperation between SCO member-states.
The government believes its participation in the exercise, an SCO event, will not in any way dilute its position that Pakistan continues to promote cross-border terrorism. India’s presence though will be seen as a sign of the importance it attaches to the role of the Central Asia-focused regional bloc in security-related issues, especially in Afghanistan.
With Iran too joining the group, comprising Russia, India, China, Pakistan and 4 Central Asian countries as full members, SCO is likely to play a key role in the efforts for a political and diplomatic solution to the situation in Afghanistan.
India was apparently the last country to confirm its participation in the exercise which was announced in March this year following a meeting of the Council of RATS in Tashkent. In line with the SCO protocol, Pakistan had invited all member-states, including India, for the exercise which doesn’t involve troops and is meant to identify and suppress channels that finance terrorist activities. India is likely to be represented by officials of National Security Council Secretariat in the exercise.
The SCO Dushanbe Declaration earlier this month reaffirmed the “special role’’ of the SCO RATS in the joint fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism in order to ensure regional security. It had also said that member-states will continue to conduct joint anti-terrorism exercises, including the upcoming Pabbi Anti-Terror 2021 exercise.
Addressing the SCO summit meeting on Afghanistan in Dushanbe, PM Narendra Modi had said that the government formed by Taliban wasn’t inclusive and asked the international community to not rush into recognizing it. The Declaration, while calling for an Afghanistan free of terrorism and drugs, said that all member-states believed it was critical to have an inclusive government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society.
The SCO exercise will take place at a time India-Pakistan ties seem to be going from bad to worse despite the thaw witnessed in February this year when the 2 sides arrived at a ceasefire agreement. Indian army has accused Pakistan commanders of facilitating infiltration in J&K in the past month and, earlier this week, the army detained a Pakistani militant after an encounter in the Uri sector of LoC.