September will be a seminal month in the history of South Asia and an important leg in Putin‘s itenerary beginnig in Islamabad. A Russian president‘s visit to Pakistan is a once-in-a-century event. The last time a Russian presidnet visited Pakistan was–well, err, never! So this first trip of Putin to Pakistan is tectonic event. To ensure that Putin places the right emphasis on the trip, he begins his Asian trip from Islamabad.
This poignant moment in the region’s history and politics will transform the area. The Russian Dacha being built on the Indus reflects the new realities of a russurgent Russia and a rising China. Putin’s presence in Pakistan infuriates the United States. The political inroads of Russia into the Khyber creates problems for America’s presence in the Hindu Kush and Central Asia. It is in Russia’s interest to oppose America’s long term footprint in the region. That footprint is opposed by Iran, China, and Pakistan.
Putin’s point man in Pakistan Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, has set up a strategic roadmap to build up Russia’s long term goals in South and Central Asia. Moscow clearly sees a vaccum, where Russia can assist Pakistan’s ”strategic autonomy” which serves its own and Chinese interests in the region.
Moscow see great advantage in working with Pakistan as a counterweight to the growing Indo-US alliance. Putin’s strategy is to develop new neural networks with Pakistan which will support the goals of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). Putin supports enahncing cooperation with Pakistan in the fields of energy, trade and even defense systems. In fact the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder uses Russian engines (despite Delhi’s objections). Put has publicly stated that ”Gazprom is ready to take part and provide technological and, if necessary, financial assistance, and we are willing to provide an unlimited amount of it, especially for a project that is certain to take off.” This means suport for the Iran-Pakistan pipeline and also the CASA and TAPI energy veins which integrates Islamabad into the global energy vaults of the world.
Moscow brings the following goodies to Islamabad:
- Support, financing and construction of TAPI (or TAPC), and the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline and the Central Asia and South Asia (CASA) project, which suppliments 1,000-1,300 megawatts of surplus energy to Pakistan. CASA backed by the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.
- Assist in the exploration of oil, gas and minerals in Pakistan in Reko Diq and in Thar.
- Russia will upgrade powerplants at Guddu and Muzaffargarh power plants, support for the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and roads and ralways between the Dushambe Four Countries (Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan).
Pakistan’s realignment, and movement away from NATO delivers a crippling blow to the American dream of a ‘ New Silk Road Initiative.’ The US had a the chance to support and build a long-term alliance with Pakistan. However the flawed policies of Mr. Obama have pushed away Pakistanis to the Russian and Chinese camps. This will affect Asia for generations.