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Joint Air Force drill with Pakistan deterred terrorists in Xinjiang: China

The ongoing joint air force drill of China and Pakistan have deterred terrorists in China’s troubled Xinjiang province, a top Chinese military official has said.

Xinjiang bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan is located in China’s north western region. The province has seen protests by majority Uygur Muslims over increasing settlements of the Han community from other parts of China. China is battling East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants in Xinjiang, who had bases in the Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The air forces of China and Pakistan have deterred terrorist forces with joint training exercise in northwest China, said Zhan Houshun, air force commander of the Western Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The drill maintains national security and protects people of the two countries, he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The annual are force drill, code named “Shaheen VI”, began on 7 September and will end on 27 September 27 as per the original schedule. Under pressure from China to destroy the ETIM bases, the Pakistan army and air force have carried out a series of operations in recent months.

The Chinese air force said this year’s drill included pilots from each other’s countries operating their planes together. The pilots sat in the same aircraft to build mutual trust, a Xinhua report said on Friday. Li Wengang, head of the China-Pakistan joint training command office, said such a move was a reflection of the deep mutual trust between the two countries and their militaries, the report said.

Chen Lei, a leader of a Chinese pilot team, said the drill improved trainees’ skills and friendship, adding that individuals from both sides have become “buddies” after more than 10 days’ of training, the report said.

In this year’s drill, the Chinese air force has deployed surveillance radar planes like AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System besides J-11 fighters, JH-7 fighter bombers, KJ-200 ground forces, including surface-to-air missile and radar troops. Pakistan has sent JF-17 thunder fighter jets, jointly manufactured by the countries, and early warning aircraft to join the exercise. The joint training between the two militaries was launched in March 2011.

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