Time to cosy up with Rus­sia US Congress mulling an­other cut in aid

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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