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Russian Soldiers Arrive In Pakistan For First-Ever Joint Military Exercise


Russian soldiers arrived in Pakistan for the two countries' inaugural joint military exercise, officials said on September 23.

A Russian mechanized infantry unit has arrived in Pakistan to participate in two countries' first joint military exercise.

The press service for the Russian Southern Military Command said on September 23 that its unit had arrived for the Friendship-2016 exercise involving more than 70 Russian servicemen.

The exercise comes amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and its nuclear rival, India, and follows a military-cooperation agreement signed between Moscow and Islamabad in 2014.

Pakistani military spokesman Asiam Bajwa said on Twitter that the exercise will kick off on September 24 and run through October 10.

Hasan Askari, a Pakistani defense and security analyst, told AFP that the exercise signifies Russia's desire "to expand (its) options in South Asia" and is the "natural" result of India's closer ties with Washington.

India and Pakistan exchanged accusations this week following a deadly militant attack on an army base Indian-administered Kashmir on September 18 in which at least 17 Indian soldiers and four attackers were killed.

India accused Pakistan of masterminding the attack, allegations that Islamabad condemned as "vitriolic and unsubstantiated statements" aimed at shifting attention away from rights abuses in Kashmir.

Based on reporting by TASS, AFP, and the BBC

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