Pak- Rus­sia: Emerg­ing Al­lies Pak­istan-rus­sia Re­la­tions: Bit­ter Cold War & Bet­ter To­day

Air Com­modore (R) Khalid Iqbal Con­sul­tant, Is­lam­abad Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents -

Rus­sia and Pak­istan's re­la­tions have an in­ter­est­ing his­tory, marred by pe­ri­ods of at­trac­tions and re­pul­sions. More than strictly a bi­lat­eral ac­tiv­ity, this re­la­tion­ship has been a byprod­uct of the 'Great Game' align­ments/ re­align­ments and the flux of Indo-Pak dy­nam­ics. Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin's re­elec­tion has en­hanced the chances of yet an­other cozy­ing up spike in Pak-Rus­sia re­la­tions. Putin polled 64 per cent votes to win the third term. This high ap­proval rat­ing gives him the man­date to re­ori­ent Rus­sia's for­eign pol­icy. Ear­lier on also Rus­sia had shown spo­radic keen­ness in Pak­istan through the Steel Mills pro­ject, and an of­fer of pro­vid­ing a nu­clear power plant; how­ever such thaws were short lived, of­ten over­taken by fast mov­ing events like Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion ofAfghanistan and the 9/11. Now Rus­sia has of­fered to fi­nance the Iran-Pak­istan gas pipe­line pro­ject. While Amer­ica is do­ing all it could to scut­tle the pro­ject, Rus­sia is ex­tend­ing a help­ing hand. More­over, Rus­sian in­vestors are also keen to in­vest in the Thar Coal pro­ject. Pak­istan should not hes­i­tate to take up th­ese of­fers. Putin's vi­sion to re­store Rus­sia to great power sta­tus of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties for Pak­istan to realign its re­la­tions with Rus­sia. Over the last one year, Rus­sia has been send­ing the sig­nals of its re­asser­tion at the global level. Some of the ac­tions in­clude: two dou­ble ve­toes on UNSC res­o­lu­tions per­tain­ing to Syria, shield­ing Iran against the steam­rolling Amer­i­can sanc­tions, its gas gi­ant Gazprom's un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for IP pipe­line and test fir­ing of a new cat­e­gory of In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile (ICBM) to counter the Amer­i­can plans of plac­ing mis­sile in­ter­cep­tors in Europe in the garb of false flag threat from Iran etc. Rus­sia has suc­cess­fully tested the newly de­signed mis­sile to over­come the Amer­i­can mis­sile de­fense sys­tem. Mis­sile was fired just af­ter four days of the NATO sum­mit in Chicago that con­firmed the al­liance's in­tent to go ahead with build­ing mis­sile shield in Europe. Rus­sian of­fi­cials say they re­main un­con­vinced by theAmer­i­can as­sur­ances, and Mr. Putin has called for the pro­duc­tion of new mis­sile sys­tems to be dou­bled in 2013. The test took place just two weeks af­ter Putin as­sumed the pres­i­dency. In a snub­bing sig­nal to the US, Putin also can­celed a visit to the United States for a sum­mit meet­ing of the G-8; in­stead Prime Min­is­ter rep­re­sented the coun­try. NowRus­sia no longer­wants to con­tinue ced­ing space to the US. Rus­sia is feel­ing the heat of its own phys­i­cal space be­ing threat­ened by the US mind­set of ex­pan­sion­ism. Rus­sian dif­fer­ences with Amer­ica on mis­sile shield are ir­rec­on­cil­able. Pak­istan also feels the heat of the up­com­ing Amer­ica as­sisted In­dian mis­sile de­fence shield. Rus­sia has a deep in­ter­est in the re­set of re­la­tions be­tween the USA and Pak­istan. Rus­sia has been view­ing with con­cern that In­dia has de­ci­sively aligned it­self with the US and that Amer­ica has not just gained ac­cess to South Asia, but is also mak­ing fast in­roads into Cen­tral Asia. Rus­sia is seek­ing an ally in the re­gion as a sub­sti­tute for In­dia. As Pak­istan is strug­gling to dis­tance it­self from Amer­ica, Rus­sia is nat­u­rally more in­ter­ested in Pak­istan than ever be­fore. Iron­i­cally, once again, Pak-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship­may im­prove, but as a byprod­uct of re­gional and global dy­nam­ics. Re­la­tions be­tween long-term al­lies Pak­istan and the United States have hit an all time low. Pak­istan is cur­rently work­ing to evolve an ac­tion plan, based on the Par­lia­men­tary rec­om­men­da­tions, to put its link­ages with the US back on track. Amer­i­can mis­ad­ven­ture in May 2011 to en­ter Pak­istan to con­duct a raid on Osama bin Laden's com­pound without in­form­ing Pak­istan has cre­ated un­prece­dented pub­lic out­rage against the US. Peo­ple of Pak­istan are in no mood to al­low the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to con­tinue hob­nob­bing with Amer­ica. More­over, a pre­med­i­tated at­tack on Pak­istan's border posts in Novem­ber 2011, killing over two dozen sol­diers has alien­ated the mil­i­tary high-ups as well; Pak­istan's mil­i­tary lead­er­ship has been in­stru­men­tal in keep­ing the func­tional façade of Pak-US re­la­tions afloat. In an un­prece­dented move, Rus­sia de­nounced last year's NATO cross border raid on Pak­istan's Salalah check posts and is be­lieved to have backed Is­lam­abad's move to sever the sup­plies for NATO/ISAF forces inAfghanistan. From Pak­istan's side, a de­sire of warm re­la­tions with Rus­sia came to sur­face in the form of a land­mark an­nounce­ment by Pak­istan's Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, which, for the first time, named the strength­en­ing of the coun­try's re­la­tions with Rus­sia as one of its ob­jec­tives. Rec­om­men­da­tions were unan­i­mously ap­proved by the Pak­istani par­lia­ment. This in­di­cates the na­tional de­sire for closer ties be­tween Moscow and Is­lam­abad. Not long ago, such in­tent would have been un­think­able. Ear­lier, Rus­sia's staunch sup­port for Pak­istan's arch-ri­val In­dia, and Pak­istan's sup­port for Afghan mu­ja­hedin who fought the Soviet Union dur­ing its decade long oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan have been the main hur­dles. How­ever, now both the coun­tries ap­pear ready to shed the legacy of his­toric drag and move for­ward. In May last year, Pres­i­dent Zar­dari un­der­took a his­toric visit to Moscow, the first of­fi­cial trip by any head of state from Pak­istan in 37 years. Dur­ing the up­com­ing planned Pres­i­dent Putin's visit, apart from hold­ing bi­lat­eral talks with the coun­try's lead­er­ship, the Rus­sian leader will also at­tend a quadri­lat­eral sum­mit. This sum­mit would be at­tended by lead­ers of Pak­istan, Rus­sia, Afghanistan and Ta­jik­istan, and fo­cus on re­gional is­sues with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on theAfghan endgame. An­a­lysts point out a strate­gic shift in Pak­istan's for­eign pol­icy and opine that ties be­tween Moscow and Is­lam­abad have deep­ened as a result of Pak­istan's widen­ing rift with Wash­ing­ton. Rus­sia and Pak­istan are strug­gling to off load their his­toric bag­gage of mis­trust. Putin is start­ing his new term and his first for­eign visit would be to Pak­istan. Hope­fully, the visit by Pres­i­dent Putin, first ever by a Rus­sian Pres­i­dent, would create an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for a new per­spec­tive for for­ward­move­ment. It is pre­ma­ture to estab­lish whether the two coun­tries are head­ing for an en­dur­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship. As a first step both should aim at a sus­tain­able sta­ble re­la­tion­ship.

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