Categorized | South Asian Politics

PAKISTAN-Russia relations upset India

Posted on 27 November 2014 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari


 The visit of Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to Islamabad on November 20, 2014, was major positive development in the Russia-Pakistan relations. The two sides signed a comprehensive agreement for expanding their relations in several important sectors. This includes political and military issues, counter-terrorism, international security, arms control, drug control and cooperation in education, culture, scientific and technical fields.

 This agreement creates a big opportunity for Russia and Pakistan to expand their cooperation in several areas of mutual importance. Their current bilateral trade is limited which is expected to increase if they expand their bilateral relations as suggested by the latest agreement.

Now, both countries have to enter into agreements for specific actions in the agreed sectors for bilateral cooperation. For example in the area of education and culture, they will have to create arrangements for fellowships and grants for the students and their exchange programs. Similarly, they will have to agree to steps needed for cultural exchanges which can also include the visits of artists, musicians, writers and arts exhibitions.

 Pakistan and Russia are currently negotiating the supply of Russian helicopters and other military equipment to Pakistan. Russia will provide military equipment for strengthening Pakistan’s capacity to fight terrorism. This sale is expected to be completed soon and the helicopters, their spare parts and other military equipment will be delivered in 2015. India expressed its objection on the proposed supply of military equipment to Pakistan which was rejected by Russia.

 When this military equipment is received by Pakistan, it will be major shift in Russian policy towards Pakistan. It was in 1968-69 that Russia supplied helicopters, tanks and communication equipment to Pakistan. By 1970, Pakistan’s relations showed clear signs of decline. The Soviet Union sided openly with India in the 1971 East Pakistan crisis and defended India’s military intervention in East Pakistan.

  Zullfikar Ali Bhutto (Prime Minister December 1971-July 1977) reduced tension between Pakistan and the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union established the steel mill in Karachi. However, the over-all relationship was limited in scope. The Soviet Union continued to view India as its principal partner in this region.

 Pakistan’s relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated further after the Soviet Union sent its troops to Afghanistan to control its government in December 1979.

Pakistan joined hands with the United States and the conservative Arab states to create Afghan-Islamic resistance to the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Soviets blamed Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan. It had to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in February 1989.

  The bitter relations between the Soviet Union and Pakistan overshadowed their relations after the end of the Afghanistan war.

In December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia emerged as the successor state for all practical purposes. Several constituent republics of the Soviet Union became independent in 1991-1992. It took Russia ten-to-fifteen years to return to global politics as an active player and challenge the U.S.-dominated world order.

 The signs of improvement in the Pakistan-Russia relations began to emerge during the last three years. The contacts between the officials of the two states increased, giving a very clear indication that Russia wanted to improve its relations with Pakistan.

 The important visits between the two countries during 2012-2014 include Pakistan’s Foreign Minister’s visit to Moscow in February 2012, Russian Foreign Minister’s return visit to Pakistan in October 2014, Pakistan’s Air Force and Army Chiefs visited Russia in August and October 2012 respectively, Russia’s Air Force Chief and the Army Chief visited Pakistan in April and August 2013, the meeting of the Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism in Islamabad in January 2014 and Pakistan’s Defense Minister went to Moscow to participate in an international conference in May 2014. The meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization provided good opportunities to the leaders of Pakistan and Russia to meet. Pakistan is has an observer’s status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and wants to become its full member.

 Federal Minister for Petroleum and natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Moscow in June 2014 to participate in the World Petroleum Conference. Pakistan’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Policy, Sartaj Aziz visited Moscow in June 2014 and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister came to Islamabad in October 2014.

 There are no foreign policy disputes between Pakistan and Russia. In fact, Russia is worried about the on-going militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and wants to cooperate with both countries to control it. Russia is already helping the Afghan Government to control the Afghan Taliban and other militants. It wants to work with Pakistan for the same purpose because it recognizes the role of Pakistan for controlling terrorism in Afghanistan.

 There is another dimension to the renewed Pakistan-Russian relations. India is Russia’s principal friend in South Asia and Russia assigns the highest priority to its relations with India. However, India has cultivated very active relations with the United States. Russia knows about the changed foreign policy disposition. It has therefore making friendly gestures towards Pakistan. Russia wants to increase its foreign policy options in South Asia and show to India that Russia has some new foreign policy options. Therefore, improvement of relations with Pakistan helps Russia to build some diplomatic pressure on India.

 While Russia is endeavoring to increase its options in South Asia, Pakistan is also thinking on the same line. It sees the prospects of improvement of relations with Russia as an opportunity to expand its relations at the global level. It will thus secure good relations with all the major powers.

 As there is no political dispute between Pakistan and Russia, it is now easy for them to get out of the shadow of the negative history of their relations. Russia can help Pakistan in mineral resource development, energy development and building of new infra-structure. Trade is another area where both sides can gain. The improvement of relations with Pakistan will also reduce Russia’s dependence on India for dealing with the issues relating to this region.

 Despite the improvement of relations with Russia, Pakistan will maintain close interaction with the United States and other western countries. There are stronger economic and military sales ties between Pakistan and the United States. This relationship will continue. Similarly, Pakistan will maintain its close relations with China. China has made more contribution to Pakistan’s industrial development than any other country.

 If Pakistan maintains cordial relations with all major states, this will strengthen Pakistan’s diplomatic position at the global and regional levels. Therefore, Pakistan’s leadership should not sleep over the latest agreement with Russia. It needs to adopt concrete measures to implement the agreement of November 20. This will increase Pakistan’s foreign policy options and help to improve its reputation at the global level.

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