By Baber Ali Bhatti
In the post 9/11 scenario, Pakistan made a positive and major shift in its foreign policy towards Russia which has resulted in various joint-ventures. The relationship with Russia began developing in the post 9/11 period when Pakistan became the front-line state in the “war on terror”. In 2002, a major working group called the ‘Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic Stability’ was established which aimed to tackle the probable threats to regional stability which paved the way for further strengthening mutual ties. On and off exchange of visits by delegates of both countries kept supplementing ties.
In 2011, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, publicly supported Pakistan when it was struggling to gain full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It was a kind of break-through in the developing relations of Pakistan and Russia. Various economic agreements were signed and a number of offers were made by Russia for further assistance including technical assistance for the Guddu and Muzaffargarh power plants. Thereafter, a fruitful addition in bilateral ties was made by the President Asif Ali Zardari by his visit in 2011.
In the post 9/11 scenario, Pakistan made a positive and major shift in its foreign policy towards Russia which has resulted in a various joint-ventures benefiting Pakistan tremendously. A major breakthrough was the joint military exercise between Russia and Pakistan which marked a great change in this relationship while opening up the several doors for bond-enhancement on different fronts. Pakistan is following this path more enthusiastically.
For instance, Pakistan wants to create the impression that it is ready to forget the legacy of its bitter past in the Soviet-Afghanwar memories. Moreover, it yearns to forge new relations for mutual benefit to the people and the region. What exactly is luring Pakistan towards Russia and Russia towards Pakistan should be analyzed comprehensively including the mutual and exclusive benefits that both countries gain from each other.
In the wake of several geostrategic and geo-political changes taking place in the region, Pakistan has taken the initiative to develop strategic ties with all regional players in which Russia is significantly important. Russia is regaining the lost position of the post-Soviet-Afghan war and becoming an international player in the world politics. As far as South Asia is concerned, Russia is aware of the fact that in the wake of the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan will only be the crucial player in Afghanistan due to weak governance structures and the resurrection of the Afghan Taliban. Despite the reality that India has been infiltrated in Afghanistan, the existence of the Taliban on a larger scale cannot be over-looked. For the strategic stability of the region and the orientation of influence, Pakistan can play a key role. This is what led Russia to increase the advancement of military and economic ties with Pakistan.
However, Pakistan may gain benefits from this relationship more than Russia. In the wake of several geostrategic and geo-political changes that are taking place near Pakistan, Pakistan has taken the initiative to develop strategic ties with all regional players in which Russia is significantly important. The long-lasting and sustainable political and security developments in Afghanistan will be beneficial to Pakistan as well. Pakistan is right next to Afghanistan, and is adversely affected by its internal conflicts. In the Afghan-scenario, both countries are expected to get mutual strategic benefits in the strengthening ties.
Russia is currently a regional and world power, a former superpower and permanent member of United Nations Security Council. In the regional context, it is a leading member of SCO. Keeping in view these substantial credentials, Pakistan needs to build stronger ties with Russia especially when the US supports India playing a major role in the region. The US seems more inclined towards India despite the fact that Pakistan provided US with huge assistance being the front-line ally against war on terror and bearing the loss of armed forces and civilians. Having amicable relations with China on one hand, developing relations with Russia on the other hand, Pakistan can adjust itself to the changing dynamics of international relations.
Geographically, both countries seem to be ineluctable for each other providing the greater margin of economic and strategic partnership. Therefore, Pakistan must take this relationship as much as it can to heights aiming to achieve the strategic goals in the region. In the changing dynamics of world politics, Russia might prove to be a beneficial friend of Pakistan and can support Pakistan in the international community.
(The writer is a research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute.)
‘Courtesy Daily Times Karachi’.