Re­vi­sion­ing Pak-rus­sia Re­la­tions

Dr. Sha­heen Akhtar Se­nior Re­search Fel­low, In­sti­tute of Re­gional Stud­ies, Is­lam­abad.

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents -

In re­cent years there has been warm­ing up of Pak-Rus­sia re­la­tions that have seen many ups and downs dur­ing the Cold War years when erst­while Soviet Union was en­gaged in power bloc pol­i­tics and looked at the South Asian re­gion through that prism. Pak­istan on the other hand looked at its re­la­tions with the Soviet Union through the lens of its re­la­tions with In­dia and joined the op­po­site western bloc and be­came a close ally of the United States. The end of ColdWar, the emer­gence of a mul­ti­po­lar world and 9/11 has cre­ated space for re­vi­sion­ing of Pak­istan Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship. In in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics, there are no per­ma­nent friends or en­e­mies but the in­ter­ests of the states that shape their friend­ship or en­mity. The two coun­tries live in a shared neigh­bour­hood and have lot of com­mon­al­ity of in­ter­est that binds them to­gether. Th­ese range from threat of ter­ror­ism, ex­trem­ism, chal­lenges to re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity es­pe­cially in Afghanistan to col­lab­o­ra­tion in di­verse eco­nomic sec­tors and re­gional eco­nomic con­nec­tiv­ity. Since 2002, there has been a vis­i­ble thaw in the Pak-Rus­sia ties, marked by ex­change of visits at the high­est level. In 2003, Pres­i­den­tMushar­raf vis­ited Rus­sia, first ever visit of any Pak­istani Pres­i­dent in 33 years which marked a new turn in the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. In their meet­ing, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Pres­i­dent Musharraf ex­pressed their de­ter­mi­na­tion to bury the past and forge a new re­la­tion­ship. Agree­ments were also reached in ar­eas of trade, cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion and oil and gas ex­plo­ration and ex­pan­sion and mod­ern­iza­tion of Pak­istan SteelMills at a cost of $ 100 mil­lion. Other ar­eas of col­lab­o­ra­tion iden­ti­fied in­cluded nar­cotics control, debt re­struc­tur­ing, bank­ing, giv­ing each other the most-favoured na­tion treat­ment in trade and in­vest­ment, and a re­view of the ex­ist­ing joint com­mis­sions. On the po­lit­i­cal plane, the lead­ers dis­cussed is­sues such as in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, Afghanistan, in­creased drugs pro­duc­tion in Afghanistan, South Asian re­gion, Iraq and the Mid­dle East. Both states stress the need for a multi-po­lar world and the cen­tral­ity of theUN­role in the world af­fairs. Af­ter a long pe­riod of hi­ber­na­tion, Rus­sia is seek­ing an as­sertive role in the re­gion and the world af­fairs which is driv­ing its en­gage­men­twith Pak­istan which is also try­ing to di­ver­sify its re­la­tion­ship so as to re­duce de­pen­dence on the western bloc. In April 2007 the re­la­tions took an up­wards turn when Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Mekhail Frad­kov vis­ited Pak­istan, the first ever visit by a Soviet leader in al­most four decades. Frad­kov termed his visit an 'im­por­tant step' for strength­en­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and Rus­sia with spe­cial fo­cus on ce­ment­ing eco­nomic ties. Both sides agreed to pro­mote eco­nomic diplo­macy and ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion in the war on ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism. Three mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing were also signed to boost co­op­er­a­tion in var­i­ous sec­tors, in­clud­ing the lay­ing of new rail­way tracks, sup­ply of sleep­ers and sig­nalling sys­tem, upgra­da­tion ofMughalpura and car­riage and bridge work­shop and set­ting up metro rail­ways in ma­jor cities of Pak­istan. The two sides also agreed to fi­nal­ize bi­lat­eral in­vest­ment treaty and agree­ment on avoid­ance of dou­ble tax­a­tion with an ob­jec­tive to ex­pand their trade and eco­nomic ties. An MoU was signed on pro­gramme of cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional and sci­en­tific ex­changes. An agree­ment on co­op­er­at­ing in com­bat­ing il­licit traf­fick­ing and abuse of nar­cotic drugs and psy­chotropic sub­stances was also signed. Is­lam­abad also wel­comed Rus­sian of­fer to par­tic­i­pate in the In­dia-Pak­istan-Iran (IPI) gas pipe­line pro­ject through in­vest­ment in lay­ing the pipe­line. Prime Min­is­ter Mekhail Frad­kov stated: 'Pak­istan is one of the im­por­tant coun­tries in the Rus­sian for­eign pol­icy due to its role in the re­gion and in Is­lamic com­mu­nity.' Pak­istan is keen to ex­pand its po­lit­i­cal, se­cu­rity and eco­nomic ties with Rus­sia. In May 2011, Pres­i­dent Zar­dari vis­ited Rus­sia and built on the progress achieved in the past years. Both sides agreed to pro­mote trade, in­vest­ment and pursue joint projects par­tic­u­larly in the fields of en­ergy, in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, metal in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture. The pres­i­dents un­der­scored the im­por­tance of sta­bil­ity and peace in Afghanistan and reaf­firmed their sup­port for Afghan-led and Afghan-owned ef­forts to­wards pro­mot­ing na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Afghanistan. They ex­pressed their deep con­cern about the threat of ter­ror­ism and dru­gre­lated crimes per­sist­ing in the re­gion. The pres­i­dents recog­nised the need for pro­mot­ing trans-re­gional eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion. They stressed that re­gional de­vel­op­ment projects would en­sure pros­per­ity for the peo­ple of the re­gion and it­was im­por­tant to op­ti­mally utilise na­tional eco­nomic com­ple­men­tar­i­ties. They agreed to co­or­di­nate their ef­forts bi­lat­er­ally as well as through re­gional mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tive mech­a­nisms. Zar­dari in­vited Rus­sia to use Pak­istani ter­ri­tory to gain an ac­cess to 'southern seas' which would con­trib­ute to eco­nomic pros­per­ity of both coun­tries. Pres­i­dent Zar­dari has been em­pha­siz­ing on in­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing a reg­u­lar di­a­logue be­tween Pak­istan and Rus­sia at the For­eignMin­is­ters' level with an­nual bi­lat­eral meet­ings, al­ter­na­tively in Is­lam­abad and Moscow, to sus­tain the up­ward tra­jec­tory in the re­la­tion­ship. Over the past few years Pak­istan and Rus­sia have be­come part of re­gional po­lit­i­cal, se­cu­rity and eco­nomic di­a­logue such as Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) and quadri­lat­eral di­a­logue. The SCO com­pris­ing China, Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan, Uzbek­istan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Ta­jik­istan is emerg­ing as an im­por­tant re­gional and global player. The group is com­mit­ted to fight­ing three evils of ter­ror­ism, ex­trem­ism and fun­da­men­tal­ism and pro­mot­ing re­gional eco­nomic po­ten­tial. Its per­spec­tive on Afghanistan, Iran

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