Pak – Russia Emerging Partnership

27 Oct

By Sarah Khan

Recent trends in international politics involving major shifts at regional and international level are indicative of transition in global world order. There is a renewed focus on Asia and to be more accurate Asia Pacific. US, China and Russia are seeking new alliances, defense cooperation and economic cooperation with likeminded small regional states. So called non-aligned India has started to blindly bandwagon US in order to achieve strategic equilibrium with a key regional player China which is far more ahead of India in terms of military technology and economic prosperity. India’s blind bandwagoning of US has also annoyed Russia. Though, US have emerged as super power of the World after end of cold war but US-Russia ties have always remained competitive. So far, Russia remains main obstacle of America in pursuance of its goal in Middle East.

Foregoing in view, China and Russia, two key international players challenging US hegemony are seeking close diplomatic, defense and economic cooperation with Pakistan. Pakistan holds key geo-strategic location with one of the most professional Armed Forces in the region. Pakistan’s possession of Gwadar, the only deep sea port in the region, have enhanced Pakistan’s importance manifold. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a project of One-Belt One Road (OBOR), will be a major game changer in the realm of economy in the region. Other states like Iran and Afghanistan are also showing interest in the said economic activity.

The Russian renaissance in global political affairs, with a strategic design of balancing of force in the Putin era, has been shaping new contours in international politics that could provide a favorable environment for improving Russia’s overall relations with Pakistan. Russia is also seeking close bilateral ties with Pakistan. The recent Pak-Russia military exercise in Pakistan is indicative of growing Russian interests in Pakistan.

Pakistan – Russia collaboration started with a milestone military cooperation pact when the Russian defence minister, after 45 years, paid an official visit to Pakistan in December 2014. Another landmark was achieved with a $2 billion inter-governmental deal between the two countries for the construction of a gas pipeline from Lahore to Karachi in October 2015. In the same year, Moscow agreed to sell four Mi-35M helicopters to Pakistan and welcomed Islamabad when it joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s defence minister, visited Moscow to enhance further cooperation.

This year, Russian Army Commander-in-Chief Oleg Salyukov announced the first-ever “mutual special drills in mountainous terrain”. The first-ever joint military Friendship-2016 began on September 24 and concluded on October 10. Around 70 Russian soldiers and officers along with some 130 Pakistani counterparts took part in the war games called the Friendship-2016. The name is a symbolical reference to the old Cold War tensions between Moscow and Islamabad, which the two capitals are now trying to overcome. These recent engagements between Russia and Pakistan amid changing geo-political and geo-strategic milieu along with evolving inter-regional economic prospects and emerging threats to regional stability have steered both countries to define a new era of friendship.

A structured mechanism between the two countries could provide a framework to collaborate in the areas of defence, trade, investment, science, technology, agriculture, education and culture. In contemporary times, Russian actions have underscored the hardcore realities of the region, for instance, combating illicit drug trafficking in Afghanistan, improving relations with Pakistan while realising its geo-strategic importance, and preventing the emergence of the IS threat and the overflow of the Taliban insurgency from Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and to its own territories.

Russia might too eventually like to seek some long lasting partnership with Pakistan and may become in some way become part of the CPEC. This leads one to visualize another possible realignment of relations and emergence of Russia-Pakistan-China Nexus. Pak-Russian relations are still at a burgeoning stage and will take time to evolve. For longstanding relations, one paramount consideration for both sides is to comprehend emerging realities in the region and accordingly coordinate and cooperate for a prosperous future. Mutual concordance among Pakistan – China – Russia will augment well for overarching role of these states in regional and international political landscape by countering emerging alliances of US and India in the decades ahead.

The writer can be reached at ardent.jingo@gmail.com

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