Pakistan Russia joint military drill
Increasing its military ties with Russia, Pakistan is looking to buy advanced warplanes from Russia and has already signed a deal for purchasing four Mi-35 attack helicopters REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Pakistan and Russia are to conduct their first-ever joint military drill later this year in a sign of improving military ties between the once Cold War enemies.

A senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune that around 200 military personnel from both sides will take part in the exercise. Islamabad is also looking to buy advanced warplanes from Russia.

The drill is called "Friendship-2016", Qazi Khalilullah, Pakistan's ambassador to Moscow, told the Pakistan-based newspaper.

He did not reveal more details about the nature of the drill or when and where it would be conducted. But he added that the development reflects the increasing cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad.

"This obviously indicates a desire on both side to broaden defence and military-technical cooperation," Khalilullah was quoted as saying.

The plan for the exercise has come just when relations between Pakistan and the US are reported to be turning sour after the Pentagon blocked military aid of around $350m for 2017.

The US claimed that Pakistan has not been taking adequate measures to fight terror groups like the Haqqani network, besides the Afghan Taliban. The funds were thought to be for the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

A sharp decline in Pentagon aid to Pakistan in recent times has reportedly prompted Islamabad to turn to Russia with whom it signed a deal for the purchase of four Mi-35 attack helicopters. Pakistan is also looking to buy Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, the newspaper said.

The joint drill announcement also comes in the wake of Washington's growing closeness with Pakistan's arch-rival India. The US has been visibly favouring India and both countries have agreed to share their military assets and logistics. Delhi and Washington also announced the 12<sup>th edition of joint military drills from 14 September to 27 in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand.