Russia to hold separate military drills with China, Pakistan

Sea games in disputed South China Sea will involve the simulated seizure of an enemy island by marines from both sides

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In a major signal of Russia under President Putin exercising its big power military muscle, it has in partnership with China launched eight days of war games on Monday in the South China Sea – the very site of territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Also, in a major shift in strategy, media reports say that Moscow will partner Pakistan in joint military drills later in the year. Around 200 military personnel from the two sides would take part in the joint military exercises, The Express Tribune quoted a senior Pakistani official as saying.

The ‘Joint Sea-2016’ maneuvers between Russia and China include ships, submarines, ship-borne helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, along with marines and amphibious armored vehicles who will conduct live-firing exercises, according to a Chinese Defense Ministry statement on Sunday.

Tasks will include defensive and rescue drills, anti-submarine exercises and the simulated seizure of an enemy island by marines from both sides.

The Russian ships arrived early Monday in the Guangdong province port of Zhanjiang and the exercises would be held off the Guangdong coast,

The location of the war games in the South China Sea has drawn criticismfrom the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott Swift, last month dsuring his visit to Chin,a when he said:”There are other places those exercises could have been conducted.”

He described them as part of a series of actions “that are not increasing the stability within the region.”

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua rejected such sentiments in a commentary on Monday, saying those viewing the exercises as threatening were “either ill-informed ... or misled by their prejudice about China and Russia.”

Joint drills with Pakistan

The move by Moscow to strengthen defence ties with Islamabad comes at a time when Pakistan is thinking of buying advanced Russian warplanes.

This is the first time that military personnel from the two countries would be taking part in joint military drills called 'Friendship-2016'.

Pakistan has been looking to buy aircraft from other countries after the US blocked funds for the sale of eight Lockheed Martin Corporation's F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad.

The chiefs of Pakistan's Army, Navy and Air Force have been travelling to Russia during the last 15 months. This has led to a deal for the sale of four MI-35 attack helicopters to Islamabad.

Moscow’s policy shift with regard to defense ties with Pakistan is also dictated in part by the growing strategic tie-up between the US and India.