Time to cosy up with Russia US Congress mulling another cut in aid
KASWAR KLASRA ISLAMABAD— US Congress bid to halt Foreign Military Funding is being perceived as ‘ blessing in disguise’ by Pakistan’s pro- Russian lobby, which is now proposing Nawaz Sharif- led government to enhance ties with Russia.
while the US Congress ruling to halt Foreign Military Funding to Pakistan worth $ 430 million has shocked Pakistan which has long been playing frontline state role in global war against terrorism and militancy, the move has pumped fresh blood into Pakistan’s pro- Russian lobby which has, once again, started pushing the government to look to Russia to seek sophisticated military hardware to meet its defence needs.
Pakistan Observer has learnt reliably that Pakistan is mulling to contact Russia to purchase state- of- the- art Russian new generation fighter jets SU- 35.
According to defence experts, SU- 35 could be a best option for Pakistan following US State Department’s excuse
to provide F- 16s on subsidized rate.
Many defence experts believe fourth generation SU- 35 is superior fighter jet as compared to Lockheed’s F- 22 Rapter ( fifth generation). Stealth design of SU- 35 has enabled this fighter jet to share the space with modern fighter jets like F- 22. “SU- 35 can drag the rat from hole and kill. This is the fighter jet which Pakistan requires to use in rough mountains bordering PakistanAfghanistan border as well as rest of areas,” said one of higher officials of Ministry of Defence on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject publicly.
Shocked and disheartened by the US Congress move, Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs announced last week that Pakistan would acquire jets from elsewhere if the United States does not arrange funding for a previously agreed upon F- 16 fighter jet sale.
“If funding is arranged, Pakistan will get the F- 16s, otherwise, we will opt for jets from some other place,” Aziz said, without naming the country or fighter jets as replacement of F16 and US. But sources said, there was strong possibility that Pakistan will opt for SU- 35 from Russia.
Besides, Pakistan’s government is covertly working to explore opportunities to work with Russia. This correspondent has learnt that key government officials as well as Ministries have been tasked to prepare proposals aimed at enhancing PakistanRussia bilateral relationship. Well known as ‘ a man of crisis’ , Vladimir Putin, Russian President, was expected to visit Pakistan in 2012 but Moscow politely excused. Following speculations of Russian President’s visit to Islamabad, Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexy Dedov once again made it loud and clear that Moscow believes that there are still not enough reasons to justify Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Islamabad.
“The problem is that usually the purpose of the visit is not participation in ceremonies. The visit should have some substance,” Russian Ambassador Alexey Dedov said at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, earlier this month. Off- the record conversation and background interviews with some of Islamabad based diplomats and well informed Pakistani officials revealed that Pakistani authorities are working properly to make sure there is enough substance for President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Pakistan.
“We are working on it. Enhancing bilateral ties with Russia is need of hour,” said a government official who requested not to be named. Believe these government officials or not, but, as a matter of fact Pakistan has enough reason to extend hand of friendship to Russia which is still as quite influential as a leading power in the region. Since United States of America is not giving due weight to Pakistan which has suffered huge losses in US- led war against terrorism.
Following withdrawal of funds for an F- 16 deal that was aimed to force Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network, is now mulling to give Pakistan another shock. It is considering another cut, this time to persuade Islamabad to release Dr Shakil Afridi who had helped US to trace Osama bin Ladin.
Diplomatic sources told Pakistan Observer that a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers were working on a new measure to use aid cuts to force Pakistan to release Dr Afridi. Dr Afridi, who assisted US efforts in tracking down Osama bin Laden now serving a 23- year prison term in Pakistan, is considered a hero in the United States.
In January 2014, President Barack Obama signed a bill that proposed to withhold $ 33 million from assistance to Pakistan over Dr Afridi’s detention. In May that year, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed another measure linking the provision of military aid to Pakistan to Dr Afridi’s release.
Since 2011, when the United States discovered and killed Osama bin Laden, the US assistance to Pakistan has continued to decrease. It seems that one the other jerks by the US administration has finally awaken Pakistani authorities making them to explore other friends in the world.
Over the past few years, Pakistan and Russia have signed important defence related agreements. There are chances now to go for strategic cooperation.