Pakistan and Russian military troops recently conducted joint training exercise Druzhba-III from October 21-November 4, 2018. The troops from special operation forces from both the countries participated in the exercise. The exercise aimed at counter-terrorism (CT) training of the special forces and exchanging mutual CT experiences. A Russian Army Contingent comprising of 80 soldiers arrived on October 21, 2018 on an Ilyushin II-76 military transport plane at Nur Khan Airbase, Chaklala to participate in 3rd joint military exercise Druzhba-III as part of Pakistan-Russia training cooperation. Druzhba is a Russian word for “friendship”. The joint military exercise was held at Cherat and National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Pabbi near Kharian Cantonment. Pakistan hosted the first joint training exercise Druzhba-I which was held in October 2016 at Cherat while Druzhba-II was hosted by Russia in 2017 at Mineralnye Vody in the North Caucasus at an altitude of 2300 meters above sea level.
The normalisation of relations between Pakistan and Russia began in earnest with the then-Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov’s historic trip to Islamabad in 2007. The partnership was truly augmented after both countries signed a landmark “defence cooperation” agreement in 2014, during the first-ever visit to Islamabad by Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu in 45 years. This agreement lifted a longstanding arms embargo and provided for cooperation for promoting international security, intensification of counter-terrorism and arms control activities, strengthening collaboration in various military fields and sharing experiences in peacekeeping operations. In August 2015, Russia and Pakistan concluded another technical agreement over the purchase of four Mi-35M attack helicopters. The Mi-35M is the export version of the Mi-24 gunship, and is particularly suited for mountainous terrain and can be deployed in adverse weather conditions.
The aim of Druzhba-III joint exercise was to exchange professional experiences, strengthen Pak-Russia military cooperation for promoting peace and security in the region. The exercises carried out during Druzhba-III 2018 comprised minor tactics, weapon training and firing techniques like fire and maneuver, mountain warfare, reconnaissance operations, casualty evacuation, helicopter rappelling, buildup area clearance, fighting in built-up area, and air assault techniques.
A closing ceremony was held at National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) Pabbi and COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa graced the occasion as chief guest and witnessed counter-terrorism drills displayed by Special Operation Forces of Pakistan and Ground Forces of the Russian Federation. COAS appreciated the participating troops for their dedication, skill and professionalism. Speaking on the occasion he said, “This exercise is a great forum to reinforce existing relationship between the two militaries”. Russian Deputy Head of Mission in Pakistan Vladimir Berezyuk was also present on the occasion.