Reorientation of Pak-Russian Relationship
By Sajjad Shaukat
Recently, Pakistan’s analysts made misperceived speculations about the postponement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s scheduled visit to Islamabad. He had to participate in the summit, comprising Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which was also cancelled.
Some political experts said that President Putin cancelled his visit because Russia which was not included in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline has shown interest in the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project without an international tendering process, but Islamabad refused. Some of them presumed that the US and India which are against Pak-Russian growing ties might have played their role regarding cancellation of his trip.
However, these speculations proved untrue when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Islamabad on October 3 and on the same day, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani left for Moscow. The main aim of these visits is the reorientation of Pak-Russian Relationship by concluding strategic partnership in the long run.
Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on October 4, Russian counterpart Lavrov said that the two countries had detailed discussions on bilateral relations. Both the ministers agreed that they have common goals on regional and current global challenges.
Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia supports Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan by pointing out that any solution imposed from outside would not work there. And there should be national reconciliation and the process should be driven by Afghans themselves for durable peace and stability. Lavrov also opposed CIA-operated drone strikes against Pakistan. Khar also expressed similar views.
About postponement of President Putin’s visit, Lavrov clarified that Putin has already conveyed to President Zardari that he was unable to visit Pakistan due to tough schedule.
Recently, both the countries have signed three agreements (as part of MOUs), and Moscow will cooperate in moderanisation of Pakistan Steel Mills, the up-gradation of Pakistan Railways and enhancing power generation.
Besides, recently, the two countries held their second inter-governmental commission (IGC) on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation in Islamabad and discussed concrete proposals in various areas of cooperation.
It is mentionable that we cannot see Pak-Russia new relationship in isolation as both the countries need each other’s assistance due to emerging geo-political scenario in the world, focusing on Afghanistan, while Pakistan has become special arena of the major countiries’ rivalries.
During his Asia visit, on June 2, this year, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed, “The United States will shift a majority of its warships to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020” as part of a new US military strategy in Asia. The main is to counterbalance China in Asia.
While Russia opposes US intentions to deploy national missile defence system (NMD) in Europe, and expansion of NATO towards Eastern Europe. In this backdrop, the Russian President Putin had openly stated that his country was returning to its Soviet era practice.
Besides, some other developments like rejection of US-led western sanctions against China by Russia and Iran, their joint veto of UN Security Council resolution against Syria and Turkey’s increase of trade with Iran indicates new shift in world politics. Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing have asked the US to resolve the question of Iran’s nuclear programme peacefully. But America and Israel are still acting upon a war-like diplomacy against Tehran.
Notably, it is also owing to the Pakistan’s province of Balochistan where China has invested billion of dollars to develop Gwadar seaport which could link Central Asian trade with rest of the world irritates US and India. Therefore, their secret agencies have been destabilising Balochistan and other cities of Pakistan including Iranian Sistan through various subversive activities.
Pakistan also rejected American duress in relation to IP gas pipeline, and is no more interested in the US-supported gas pipeline TAP.
Taking note of US anti-Pakistan plans such as drone attacks, pressure to launch military operation in North Waziristan etc., besides China, Pakistan has also cultivated its relationship with the Russian Federation. In 2010, President Putin publicly endorsed Pakistan bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which includes Russia, China, four Central Asian Republics as permenent members, and Pakistan and Iran as observers. Putin also remarked that Pakistan was very important partner for Moscow in South Asia and the Muslim world. Notably, during her trip to Moscow on February 9, 2011, Foreign Minister Khar stated that SCO was an exceptionally important forum within the region to counter regional challenges.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari participated in the 12th summit of the Shanghai SCO recently held in Beijing. In their speeches, hinting towards US secret designs, Chinese president Hu Jintao and President Putin stated, “Only when SCO member states remain united can they effectively cope with emerging challenges—enhancing security cooperation.”
In various summits, the SCO leaders displayed strength against the US rising dominance in the region and military presence in Afghanistan, near Central Asia. Nevertheless, Russia has offered Pakistan counter-terrorism equipments. When Russian military Chief Col-Gen. Alexander Postnikov visited Pakistan in May 2011, he even discussed with Gen. Kayani—the possibility of expanding defence ties by holding joint military exercises, exchanging trainees and trainers and selling and buying weapons. In this context, Gen. Kayani’s four day trip to Russia has consolidated progress in defence cooperation as his Russian counterpart gave a positive response.
Nonetheless, after the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014, US which signed an agreement of partnership with Kabul, has decided to establish six military bases in that country having eyes on the energy resources of Central Asia, with multiple strategic aims against Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia. US also encouraged India to take a more active role in Afghanistan. However, Moscow wants to get more involved in regional affairs to counterbalance growing influence of US in Afghanistan. It knows that due to its strategic geo-political location, Pakistan can play a key role in Afghanistan for Russian interests. So, Pak-Russian reorientation of relationship is owing to the emerging geo-political scenario.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Affairs