NATIONAL

Russia planning war games with India, China

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: Russia plans to hold war games with India and China, a top defence official here said.

"Our goal is to organise such multi-country military exercises [with both India and China] within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation," Chief of the Russian General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky told The Hindu ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit.

Observer status

China, along with Russia, is a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that also includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. India joined it as an observer last July, along with Pakistan and Iran.

"The joint war games our paratroopers held with the Indian military this year showed the importance and practical weight of the eastern vector of Russia's foreign policy," the four-star General said. "Our relations with the neighbours in the west and east are based on mutual interests. We have mutual interests with India and China, including in the sharing of defence skills and experience."

Russia held large-scale manoeuvres with China earlier this year, prompting western analysts to conclude that the SCO was turning into a military bloc. The General denied such speculation.

"I would like to dispel any fears that the SCO is acquiring any functions of a military organisation," General Baluyevsky said. "The exercises we are planning will be directed at preventing, combating acts of terrorism and eliminating their consequences."

Shared interests

India's cooperation with Russia and China is likely to come up during Dr. Singh's talks with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. On the eve of his visit to Russia, Dr. Singh said such cooperation was based on shared interests.

"India, Russia and China share a common approach to the challenges of the 21st century and a desire to use [the] trilateral format to combat new threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking and international crime," the Prime Minister said in an interview to the Russian Government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta. "There is also a very significant potential for trilateral economic cooperation in such spheres as trade, finances, investment, agriculture, energy and high technologies."