SCO members come together for counter-terrorism exercises . . .
Russia conducted its annual strategic exercise, Central 2019, between September 16-21. While last year Russia included China and Mongolia in these exercises, for the first time this year the exercise was expanded to include India, Pakistan, and four Central Asian republics, all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Central 2019, mounted to enhance operational and tactical collaboration on counter-terrorism, started in Kyrgyzstan, while field training exercises were carried out in several training sites in South Russia, Siberia, the Urals, and in the Caspian Sea. The exercise involved 128,000 troops, 600 aircraft, and 15 warships, including 1,600 Chinese troops, 300 weapon systems, and 30 aircraft. Interestingly, the Indian military is collaborating with Chinese and Pakistani military for the first time in Central Asia.
Increasing Sino-Russian collaboration . . .
Since last year, Russia has conducted large-scale military exercise with China’s People’s Liberation Army, which has provided more opportunities for the Chinese to test new weapon systems and enhance operational and tactical collaboration. In 2018, the Chinese military, along with Mongolia, participated in the Russian Eastern District exercise, and also deployed its maritime assets jointly with the Russian navy into the Sea of Japan. This year’s exercise focused on Central Asia, where Russia, China, India and Pakistan, all members of the SCO, have shared interests in increasing their military co-operation to combat terrorism.
Signalling the West . . .
Sino-Russian military exercises are focused on testing new weapon systems, increasing the interoperability of planning, and conducting joint land and maritime operations. These exercises are becoming increasingly regular. Given Chinese concerns about a renewed U.S. military strategy and engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and instability in Central Asia, China seems to be pivoting towards greater defence collaboration with Russia. Similarly, Moscow is signalling to the U.S. and NATO members – including Canada – that it still possesses capabilities to conduct simultaneous military operations in several theatres: with SCO members in Central Asia, Belorussia in Eastern Europe, and in the Arctic. At the same time, India and Pakistan, their ongoing conflict over Kashmir notwithstanding, are collaborating with SCO members, which underscores their shared agenda on counter-terrorism.