In recent years, Russia and China have worked together economically and militarily through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. most of the “former” Soviet Union’s central Asian vassals are involved, while Iran, Nepal, India and Pakistan are observers, or have indicated they plan to join.
Rest assured though readers-the Russians promise that SCO will not become a “military alliance”.
“The main [of the six international counterterrorism exercises planned for the year] will be a joint exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in August,” a regional grouping dominated by Russia and China, Army General Alexei Maslov said.
The exercise will be held in the Russian Urals and will involve 500 vehicles from Russia and China, about 2,000 Russian and 1,600 Chinese personnel, a company (around 100 men) from Tajikistan, and smaller units from other members, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the general said.
While China has yet to decide how its troops would be transited through Kazakhstan, he has already suggested an alternate route directly across the Sino-Russian border in the Far East.
Officially, the SCO focuses on fighting drug and arms trafficking, terrorism and separatism. Although it has conducted a number of joint military exercises since 2003, Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov earlier this month reassured critics concerned about SCO countering U.S. and NATO influence in resource-rich Central Asia, saying the grouping would not turn into a military bloc.
Russia also held its first-ever joint military exercise outside the SCO framework with China in 2005, several exercises with SCO observer nation India, and has raised the prospect of the other two SCO observers Pakistan and Iran participating in such exercises in the future.