The Pakistan Navy kicked of its multinational AMAN 2017 naval exercise on February 10, involving 37 countries with nine nations–Australia, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Russia–participating with warships or aircraft. The United States has sent four ships, China has dispatched three warships and Russia has sent an anti-submarine ship to take part in the Pakistan Navy-led international exercise, a highly successful event that sees more countries joining in every other year.

Turkey and Russia are participating for the first time in the exercise this year, indicating that both countries are seeking closer defense ties with Pakistan. Turkey and Pakistan have signed several key defence contracts in 2016; Turkish state-owned defense contractor was awarded a contract for the upgrade of three attack submarines currently in service with the Pakistan Navy. It also exported military training aircrafts to Turkey.

As Russia only lifted a longstanding arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014, it has since then agreed to replace Pakistan’s aging fleet of US-made Cobra attack helicopters with Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters this year. In 2016, Russia and Pakistan also held their first ever, joint military exercise with 200 military personnel from both countries participating in the drill primarily focused on counterinsurgency operations. Furthermore, China is also slated to provide the Pakistan Navy with eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines by 2028.

The Indian navy, on the other hand is trying to downplay apprehensions over the international naval exercise, terming it as a “normal maritime activity” every nation was entitled to. Pre-empting the exercise, the Indian Navy started conducting a 30-day naval drill two weeks ago, terming it as the Navy’s largest military exercise ever, involving over 60 ships, five submarines, and 70 aircraft.

Pakistan is only carrying out the exercise for the purpose of peace and cooperation, as the theme of the event indicates, and urges India to see it as such.