Pakistan and Russia have had frayed relations in the past. The divisions in Cold War era and Soviet-Afghan war created the distant relationship between two states. The Pak-Soviet bilateral relations got worst when South Asia specifically Afghanistan became the battle ground for proxy wars between two former super powers i.e. USA and Soviet Union. However, with the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 and changing regional dynamics in post-Cold War era, Pakistan and Russia are on the path of opening new doors to their bilateral relations. With the changing geo-political environment both countries have reassessed their relationship by leaving behind the hostile historical paradigm and to adopt more cooperative measures to counter complex problems of 21st century.
Both Moscow and Islamabad have taken pro-active approach to take relations forward and to contribute in possible economic and military cooperation in the region. The renewed romance between Russia and Pakistan is significant to maintain the balance of power, peace, stability and security in the South Asia
The changing patterns of Pakistan and Russia bilateral relations are the result of prominent changes in the international relations. Considering these changing dynamics, Pakistan has taken the initiative to develop strong strategic ties with all important regional players in which of course Russia is a prominent player.
The close defense and strategic ties of India with United States of American pushed a new era in Pak-Russia relations. The change in Pakistan ‘foreign policy in post 9/11 era was prominent in bringing Russia closer. 2003 was the beginning of new era in Bilateral relationship when Ex-President Pervez Musharraf paid visit to Russia and relations began at fast pace in that very era. In 2011, Russia also stood behind Pakistan to support its demand to attain full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The rising romance between Russia and Pakistan also bought various economic agreement and offers made by Russia to provide technical assistance to Pakistan for its power plants. Joint ventures of military cooperation and in different sectors between Pakistan and Russia is benefiting Pakistan tremendously.
The resurgence of Russia as global player in the international politics is evident from its intervention in Crimea and Syria. Russia once again gained its lost glory diplomatically, military and economically in recent times which is making Russia significant in international relations. With the resurgence of Russia, Rise of China and India world order is moving towards multi-polarity from uni-polarity. USA is no longer an only power to look upon now world has more options to look for cooperation and integration for peace and security. USA lost its influence in Afghan peace process and in Syrian war that vacuum is now filled by Russia which resulted in decline of US influence in respective regions. Pakistan needs to adopt pragmatic approach for Afghanistan issue by cooperating with Russia which will deliver peace and stability not only for South Asia but also for Pakistan in short and long run. Strengthening ties on Afghanistan issue will bring strategic benefits for both Russia and Pakistan.
Pakistan needs to build stronger ties with Russia especially when US is more inclined towards its arch rival India. It was Pakistan which provided huge assistance to USA as a front-line ally in its War on Terror but Washington is more willing to support India in fulfilling its objectives of becoming regional power. USA interests in supporting India are meant to contain the Influence of China in Indo-Pacific region. On the other hand, China, Russia and Pakistan’s cooperation is becoming irritant for US goals in the Asian continent. The troika is creating real time problems for the world’s super power USA. Having cordial relations with China on one hand and developing relations with Russia on other. Pakistan is adjusting itself to the changing dynamics of international relations. Russia is a good option for Pakistan as it proved to be beneficial friend and can support Pakistan in the international platform as it did in past.
On numerous national, regional and international interests, Pakistan and Russia shares mutual consent ranging from regional peace and stability, cross border terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cooperation in fields of defense and military also in economic sector. The sincere efforts of both Russia and Pakistan will likely to bring peace in Afghanistan. To gain the maximum mutual benefits out of this bilateral romance, Russia and Pakistan should device more balanced foreign policies in the light of changing dynamics of geo-strategic and geo-economic challenges of the region. Russia can play the convincing role to solve the skirmishes between New Delhi and Islamabad to ensure the balance of power and stability in the region as India and Russia shares good ties.
Russia needs to play the role of regional counter balancing force in South Asia by providing same privileges to Pakistan in defense sector as it provides to India. Russia may build cohesive approach towards South Asian states to organize collective security platform which will revive the lost glory of former super power and will be a milestone in the strategic balance of South Asia. Exchange of counter-terrorism tactics and joint military exercises between Russia and Pakistan will be in the best interest of both partners. Since both Russia and Pakistan are on the path of developing stronger ties which should be institutionalized along with increasing people to people contact. Pakistan must pursue its new relationship with Moscow dynamically and keep it independent of its relations with other countries.
By Zainab Abbasi
(The writer is an M.Phil scholar and a Visiting lecturer at Quaid-i-Azam University and COMSATS. Her area of speciality is South Asia, Politics of Terrorism, China-Pakistan Relations and Indo-China Relations)