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Reorientation of the Pakistani-Russian Relationship

Stop NATO
October 6, 2012

Reorientation of the Pakistani-Russian Relationship
By Sajjad Shaukat

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[A]fter the announcement of the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014 the US, which signed a partnership agreement 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.

However, Moscow wants to become more involved in regional affairs to counterbalance the growing influence of the 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, the Pak-Russian reorientation of their relationship is due to the emerging geo-political scenario.

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Shanghai Cooperation Organization heads of state summit in Beijing, June 2012.
President Vladimir Putin ninth from left; President Asif Ali Zardari thirteenth from left.

Recently, Pakistani analysts made misperceived speculations about the postponement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s scheduled visit to Islamabad. He was to have participated in a summit composed of Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which was also cancelled.

Some political experts said that President Putin cancelled his visit because Russia was not included in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and has shown interest in the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project [only] without an international tendering process, but Islamabad refused. Some of them presumed that the US and India, which are against growing Pak-Russian 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 the Pak-Russian relationship by concluding a strategic partnership in the long run. 

Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on October 4, her Russian counterpart Lavrov said that the two countries had detailed discussions on bilateral relations. Both ministers agreed that they have common goals on current regional and 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 that 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 expressed similar views.

About the 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 a tough schedule. 

Recently both countries have signed three agreements (as part of Memoranda of Understanding), and Moscow will cooperate in the modernisation of Pakistan Steel Mills, the upgrading of Pakistan Railways and enhancing power generation. 

Besides, recently, the two countries held their second inter-governmental commission (IGC) meeting on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation in Islamabad and discussed concrete proposals in various areas of cooperation.

It is worthy of mention that we cannot see the new Pak-Russia relationship in isolation, as both countries need each other’s assistance due to the emerging geo-political scenario in the world, focusing on Afghanistan, while Pakistan has become a special arena of major countries’ rivalries.

During his Asia visit, on June 2, this year, US Defense 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 aim of which is to counterbalance China in Asia.  

In the meanwhile, Russia opposes US intentions to deploy a national missile defence system (NMD) in Europe and expansion of NATO towards Eastern Europe. Against this backdrop, Russian President Putin has openly stated that his country was returning to its Soviet era practice.

Besides, some other developments, like the rejection of US-led Western sanctions against Iran by Russia and China, their joint vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions against Syria and Turkey’s increased trade with Iran indicates a 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 war-like diplomacy against Tehran. 

Notably, it is also attributable to Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan, where China has invested billion of dollars to develop the Gwadar seaport which could link Central Asian trade with the rest of the world, which irritates the US and India. Therefore, their secret agencies have been destabilising Baluchistan and other cities of Pakistan as well as the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan through various subversive activities.

Pakistan also rejected American duress in relation to the IP gas pipeline, and is no more interest in the US-supported TAP gas pipeline. 

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’s bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which includes Russia, China, four Central Asian nations {Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) as permanent members, and Pakistan and Iran as observers. Putin also remarked that Pakistan was a 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 the 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 at 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 and at enhancing security cooperation.”

At various summits, SCO leaders displayed strength against the rising US dominance in the region and its military presence in Afghanistan, near Central Asia.

Contrariwise, Russia has offered Pakistan counter-terrorism equipment. 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 provided a positive response.

Nonetheless, after the announcement of the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014 the US, which signed a partnership agreement 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.

The US also encouraged India to take a more active role in Afghanistan.

However, Moscow wants to become more involved in regional affairs to counterbalance the growing influence of the 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, the Pak-Russian reorientation of their relationship is due 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

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com    

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