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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It was for the first time that China dispatched its troops to train abroad.

Opinion - The Hindu Tuesday, Aug 21, 2007 Setting up SCO as a counter to NATO
Vladimir Radyuhin By timing war games to coincide with its summit, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has sought to demonstrate its growing regional clout and focus on security and counterterrorism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is flexing its military muscles like never before. On August 17 the leaders of the SCO watched in Siberia the final stage of the largest yet war games of the grouping. About 6,000 soldiers, more than 1,000 combat vehicles, and scores of aircraft practised combat skills in ‘Peace Mission-2007,’ a week-long anti-terror drill staged in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia.
The Siberian military manoeuvres were significant in several ways. It was for the first time that the SCO leaders attended the war games. It was also for the first time that the militaries of all the SCO members took part in the drill. Finally, it was for the first time that China dispatched its troops to train abroad.
The Presidents of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan travelled to the West Siberian town of Chebarkul after meeting for an annual summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Thursday (August 16). By timing the war games to coincide with the summit, the SCO sought to demonstrate its growing regional clout and focus on security and counterterrorism.
The SCO leaders have repeatedly denied any plans to transform their group into a defence alliance, but the security component of the organisation has been expanding at breathtaking pace. Three years ago the SCO set up a modest Regional Anti-Terror Structure (RATS) for information exchange and joint training of national security services. Two years later cooperation between the Defence Ministries was institutionalised through the establishment of a Defence Ministers Council, and earlier this year Russia circulated a draft agreement to formalise closer military ties among the SCO states.
Beijing has now backed Moscow’s proposal to establish a partnership between the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a defence pact of former Soviet states, even though earlier it was reluctant to have ties with a strictly military alliance and rejected Moscow’s initiative to make ‘Peace Mission-2007’ a joint exercise of the SCO and CSTO. “I think the SCO and the CSTO can and must cooperate,” Chinese Ambassador to Russia Liu Guchang said in the run-up to the Bishkek summit. CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha had earlier announced that the two organisations would shortly sign a protocol on cooperation and might hold joint military training in future.
China is the only member of the SCO that does not participate in the CSTO, described as Warsaw Pact-2, and a formalised partnership between the two organisations would lay the basis for a defence alliance between Russia and China in Central Asia and turn the SCO into an effective counterweight to the U.S. and NATO in the region.

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