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Pak part of Saudi-led military exercise: FO

Pak part of Saudi-led military exercise: FO

Islamabad: Pakistani troops have joined armed forces from around 20 countries for "the largest, most important military manoeuvres" ever staged by its close ally Saudi Arabia to ramp up their counter-terrorism skills.

The Foreign Office said Pakistani troops are part of the multinational military exercise being staged by Saudi Arabia.

In a statement issued late last night, it said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have close defence ties going on for decades.

"It is in this backdrop that Pakistan is participating in a multi-national exercise on counter-terrorism being held in Saudi Arabia," it said.

"This includes military exercises and intense training cooperation in various domains. Both countries have training exchanges in which trainers are sent to Saudi Arabia for multiple training areas and Saudi Armed Forces personnel also receive training in Pakistan," it said, without giving details about the schedule of the military exercise.

A small Pakistani defence contingent remains stationed in Saudim Arabia under a bilateral arrangement, it said.

The remarks by the Foreign Office came after Saudi Arabia announced it was conducting "the largest, most important military maneuvers" ever staged in the region. The "Thunder of the North" exercise involves ground, air, and naval forces.

According to official Saudi SPA news agency, troops from around 20 countries, including Pakistan, were gathering in northern Saudi Arabia for military exercises, sparking fears that these countries might also deploy ground troops in Syria.

The countries participating in the military exercise include Saudi Arabia's five partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Chad, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal and Tunisia, the SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia is currently leading a military campaign against Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.

Pakistan has already announced it will be part of Saudi Arabia's 34-nation alliance to fight "terrorism" in Islamic countries. But it had also said that it will not deploy troops in foreign countries in combat role.

Since the Saudi alliance excludes Shiite regional power Iran, it is feared that the initiative may further sharpen the sectarian divide in the region.

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