In case there is will, there is a way
A couple of years back it would have been difficult to conceive that the army leadership of Pakistan and India would ever agree to join a joint anti-terror drill. The exercise involving troops from eight SCO member countries began on August 22 and will end on August 30. The army contingents however reached the exercise location in Russia on August 14.
International compulsions rather than domestic pressures for peace made the leaderships of the two countries join the SCO, which requires mutual coordination between member states in a number of spheres, anti-terrorism being one. The Indian government, which would have preferred to act as an American surrogate in the region, found Trump’s protectionist policies disastrous for India‘s economy and sought to hedge its bets by giving added importance to SCO.
Pakistan has been under constant US pressure for more than a decade illustrated by the Abbottabad and Ramon Davis affairs, withdrawal of Pakistan’s status as a strategic partner, cuts in CSF, hindrances in the sale of F-16’s, pressure for release of Shakil Afridi and to crown it all the provocative new year message from Donald Trump. Meanwhile the US also suspended the training facility for Pakistan’s military officers. The measures have pushed both India and Pakistan towards China and Russia who want better relations between the neighbouring countries. One of the measures to evaluate the outcome of interaction at the SCO level would be a reduction in Pak-India border incidents, which have led to the killing of hundreds of people and troops on both sides.
Multilateral forums in general, and SCO is one, have a positive impact on contentious bilateral relations. So far the two neighbouring countries have taken low visibility baby steps towards peace. After the suspension of official talks for a number of years, in April SCO defense ministers met in Beijing. Last month India sent a delegation to an anti-terror meeting of legal experts from the SCO hosted in Islamabad. And now we have the joint military drill. What remains to be seen however is if the SCO’s Shanghai Spirit can break the deadlock between India and Pakistan.