It is believed that there are no lasting friends or adversaries in the domain of foreign relations, just interests are essential and preeminent. Each country on the planet holds fast to this standard and Pakistan is the same. Given the nature of Pakistan-United States (US) relations, the former’s foreign policy has remained rather in line with that of the latter. Be that as it may, the world is moving from unipolarity to multipolarity. Pakistan needs to readjust its international strategy with the changing global and local conditions. Russia, an important global player, has emerged with a revisionist position towards the contemporary situation. As of late, Russia has figured out how to reassert its criticalness internationally and regionally. It is additionally re-examining its approach towards South Asia. Being a significant nation in this region, Pakistan needs to look past the Cold War and towards an alternate relationship with Russia. There can be a Pak-Russia relationship based on collaboration and common trust, while keeping stability in Pakistan’s relations with the US.
Russia’s relations with Pakistan had initially been impacted by Moscow-New Delhi ties and afterward by the Soviet-driven war in Afghanistan. Pakistan supported the Afghan jihadist groups in the battle against Moscow. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1990, Moscow-Islamabad relations stayed stable and mutually wary until 2010. However, from that point on, the mutual relations started to change. It prompted the lifting of a Russian arms ban on Pakistan in 2014. The first joint military exercise was held in 2016. In the past, catastrophic events have gone about as an impetus for closer ties. Following the devastating earthquake in 2005 that desolated northern Pakistan, Russia was one of the first countries to give aid to Islamabad. Presently, a Russian exchange delegation visited Pakistan and their exchange amplified by $270 million. As Russian energy giant Gazprom signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pakistan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, the exchange increased to $520M. After the 2010 floods in Pakistan, Russia again offered help. The situation prompted President Vladimir Putin’s open underwriting of Pakistan joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It was followed by an official visit by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Islamabad.
There can be a Pak-Russia relationship based on collaboration and common trust, while keeping stability in Pakistan’s relations with the US.
Besides monetary and political ties, there has been an improvement in social ties, including the distribution of the world’s first bilingual Urdu-Russian dictionary. These progressive upgrades also prompted the Friendship Drills that were carried out by the Pakistani and Russian militaries.
Such a stage would have appeared to be inconceivable 10 years prior. Nonetheless, the scenario is not that straightforward. Expecting COVID-19 and Russian commitment to battle it, and Pakistan’s enthusiasm for Russian ties as sufficient to fortify them will be an oversimplification.
Pakistan and Russia have now chosen to improve relations step by step. It will take some time to pick up the pace. Pakistan’s economy is unstable and not in a situation to pay hard money for potential acquisition of Russian defence equipment. It likewise cannot overlook the US and European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia. After the pandemic, Russia is also battling financially. It is not in an entirely agreeable situation to offer long haul delicate advances.
These restrictions aside, Russia is so far ready to update the Pakistan Steel Mills, and Guddu and Muzaffargarh power plants. It is also prepared to expend in Central Asia-South Asia Power Project (CASA 1000) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Indian pipeline (TAPI) ventures. Therefore, Russian strategy has experienced an enormous change in the region. Significantly, Russia has had the option to draw in with Pakistan without repelling India.
Many experts believe that Pakistan and Russia’s bilateral relations are getting stronger day by day. There is no doubt that an improvement of relations with Russia is a part of Pakistan’s international strategy needs. Many in the government believe that Pakistan does not have any major issues in its relations with Russia. There are possibly some minor business issues here and there only. It is a well-disposed and profound agreeable relationship.
One of the issues is that Pakistan has proceeded with refusal to recognize Armenia. Armenia is Russia’s closest ally and it is a matter of conflict between Islamabad and Moscow. Pakistan’s position on Armenia is probably not going to change at any point soon. Islamabad’s commitment to Armenia’s foe, Azerbaijan, keeps on strengthening. Pakistan’s President, Arif Alvi held talks with the Azeri President, Ilham Aliyev. They examined the chance of further collaboration in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Russia has had the option to draw in with Pakistan without repelling India.
Obviously, Pakistan and Russia both discover it commonly gainful to create more prominent financial and military ties. There is incredible potential in the fields of trade and energy. For Russia, Pakistan can possibly give market to its guard supplies and there is interest in the energy sector. It is Pakistan’s preferred position to have great relations with all significant forces in the region. Russia being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) can be substantial for Pakistan. Correspondingly, Pakistan and Russia can do significantly more to improve participation in fields other than economy and defence. Support between Moscow and Islamabad can additionally be fortified at multilateral discussions like the SCO.
Pakistani and Russian security interests are progressively interweaved, so Moscow cannot stand to overlook the rise of dangers from transnational fear mongers. Besides, productive exchange is occurring between the two nations with respect to Russian-Pakistani civil nuclear cooperation. Also, people to people contact is fundamental. This may include experts from various fields such as academics, media people, parliamentarians, and businesspeople from both countries. Activities for social contacts can be carried out. For example, there can be coordinated effort between TV stations of the two states to create awareness and trust. Also, language classes in both Russia and Pakistan may be conducted. Pakistan should seek out its new relationship with Russia enthusiastically and keep it autonomous of its associations with other nations.
Pakistan’s government has to recognize the value of patience and commitment to strengthen its security relationship with Russia. In the first place, Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) ought to be held normally. Yearly political meetings likewise ought to be moved up to the level of Foreign Ministers. As things progress, Islamabad may in the end win Russian help for its enrolment into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Islamabad may have the option to convince the Kremlin to intervene in the Kashmir issue. On the other hand, Prime Minister Imran Khan should visit Russia as soon as possible after the pandemic crisis. It will surely lead to positive results for Pakistan in the near future.