The participation of Indian and Pakistani soldiers in the ongoing SCO military drills in Russia will have no impact on peace in South Asia despite the high hopes that some are pinning to this symbolic event. It’s impossible to avoid the positive optics of these two regional rivals coming together as part of a larger effort to multilaterally train for defeating the three agreed-upon threats of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, but that’s as far as it goes, meaning that there’s no real peacemaking substance to these drills apart from whatever superficial symbolism certain commentators might attribute to them.
The SCO was never meant to become an “Eastern NATO” like Alt-Media sometimes portrays it as so there are very real limits to the extent of inter-military cooperation. Instead of training to become a multinational military force like the NATO countries do, the SCO ones are pretty much just sharing experience with one another and engaging in standard exercises, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary and shouldn’t be hyped up to the point that it sometimes gets to. For those who are aware of regional dynamics and the core issues at the center of the Kashmir Conflict, it’s almost laughable to think that these drills can change each country’s political position.
India and Pakistan aren’t puppets of Russia and China respectively, so it’s not possible for either of them to exert the necessary pressure upon their partners to compel certain concessions, which would instantly destroy their strategic partnerships if they tried. That’s why Russia so strongly took India’s side on Kashmir while China backed Pakistan, though it should also be added that the People’s Republic has direct security concerns stemming from New Delhi’s unilateral “Israeli”-like moves last month because the country also lays claim to China’s Aksai Chin. Russia, meanwhile, has no direct stake in the conflict, but wants to sell more arms to India.
As such, Russia forfeited what could have been its promising role in “balancing” regional affairs since it was much too afraid of losing out on the ultra-profitable deals that it eventually clinched with India as a “reward” for its stance a month later during the recent Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. It’s for this reason why nobody should expect Russia to transform a purely apolitical military-centric event into a political one, let alone one where Moscow suddenly moderates its partisan position in favor of New Delhi just to appeal to soldiers of an unspecified rank who aren’t even capable of making political decisions relevant to the Kashmir Conflict.
Therefore, it remains purely in the realm of so-called “academic thought” and Alt-Media perception management that anyone would even seriously countenance these symbolic SCO drills resulting in any kind of breakthrough on Kashmir. The reality on the ground is such that nothing of the sort can happen through those means, to say nothing of that speculative scenario occurring with Russian support. While it sends a positive message that India and Pakistan are drilling together under the umbrella of the SCO, that said message shouldn’t be exaggerated to mean anything other than pragmatic cooperation in an international organization.
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