Welcome to Pakistan Mr. Putin
In an article titled “Is Afghanistan a cover-up” published in the the Voice of Russia, Olga Denisova refelcts Russian thinking when she quotes the Director of the Centre for Geopolitical Expertise Valery Korovin ‘The US is implementing its Anaconda geopolitical strategy adopted several years ago. It consists in surrounding Eurasia with US military bases for the economic and strategic stifling of a large territory with Russia in the middle. Now we are witnessing the implementation of one of the stages of this project, which is already several decades old.’
Russia is counter-balancing the US moves in land-locked Tajikistan–which can never be successful without Pakistan.
A pro-Pakistan artcile published in Pravda on August 28th, 2012 with the title “Pakistan can make Russia the Queen of Asia” sets the stage for the change of attitude towards Pakistan by Russia. In the article the author, Lyuba Lulko says that “establishing close cooperation with Pakistan will give Russia a real chance to gain a foothold in Central and South Asia. In addition, Russia will be able to access the Indian Ocean, and make the U.S. troops in Afghanistan directly dependent on its logistics.”
Lyuba Lulko further says that “The constant and rude attempts of the United States to interfere in the internal affairs of a nuclear power raise overt anger in this country at all levels”. This sort of criticism of the US is part of Moscow’s real thinking since the days of the Cold War. No matter what Obama said during his nomination speech, the fact remains that the Kremlin doesn’t like the US hegemony on wold affairs and will do whatever is necessary to increase in dimunative stature.
Lulko reminds his readers that “A special envoy of the President of Russia visited Pakistan in May 2012. Putin himself accepted the invitation to come to Pakistan for a bilateral meeting in Islamabad, prior to the IV quadrilateral meeting on Afghanistan. The meeting is to be held in Islamabad on 26-27 September 2012 with the participation of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Russia. A new strategic partnership is brewing in the region.”
Obviously both events are seminal in nature and will change the linkages between Islamabad and Moscow.
President Putin in coming to Pakistan. The first ever Russian president to ever visit Pakistan. This is a colossal event and will lead to change in the post-US-withdrawal events in Afghanistan. His visit will not dramatically change the civil and military ties but will reverse a trend in Pakistan-Russian relations, from adversary to neuteral to some sort of cooperative ally.
- The Kremlin finally decided that Pakistan must be part of the solution.
- The format of four-way cooperation with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan should help Moscow prepare for the eventual pullback of the U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan.
- In Sochi, the new forum, which Mr. Medvedev described as “a working regional format,” was institutionalised as a permanent arrangement, independent of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation
- The other project is a motor road and a railway from Tajikistan to Pakistan across the Wakhan corridor in extreme northeast Afghanistan — a buffer the British created at the end of the 19th century between the Russian and British empires.
- The proposed transport link resurrecting the ancient Silk Road would be a strategic gain for the countries involved. Pakistan will receive direct access to the markets of Central Asia and Russia, while Tajikistan — and Russia — will get access to Pakistani ports. China will also stand to gain, as the road is likely to be linked with the Karakorum Highway connecting Pakistan with China’s Xinjiang region.
- “Russia may become a donor of economic, social and military-political security for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan,” Chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev said commenting on the Sochi summit.
The periodic quadripartite summits of Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan hosted by President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin at Dushambe, and Sochi, must have made South Block strategists in Delhi sit up. The next one is in Islamabad. Moscow decisively moved to de-hyphenate its relations with Islamabad and New Delhi. The silence from Delhi is telling a story.
“President Pervez Musharraf‘s made determined efforts in mending fences with Pakistan. His visit to Moscow in 2003, first by a Pakistan leader in 33 years, helped to clear the air and broke the ice. However Russia-Pakistan relations continued to be defined by Moscow’s ties with India. The American closeness with Delhi however did create new thinking in Moscow. Sochi was a turning point. Several high-level contacts between Moscow and Islamabad is changing things dramatically. Mr. Medvedev’s bilateral meeting with Pakistani President Zardari on the sidelines of the summit was marked by new-found warmth. Mr. Medvedev called for the two countries “to expand our economic ties too.” Noting that “unlike in the past,” he and Mr. Zardari established “very regular, frequent contacts,” and were engaged in “good political dialogue.”
Islamabad lamented that Russia and Pakistan “have not made much progress in this area yet,” and suggested that the two leaders look at “opportunities for our bilateral economic cooperation and development” as well as “possibilities of working together in a four-party format.” On Mr. Medvedev invitation Mr. Zardari to paid an official visit to Russia. In Sochi, during the last summit, Mr. Zardari fourth meeting with Mr. Medvedev –things moved forward dramatically.
In Sochi Mr. Medvedev gave the green signal for an inaugural meeting of the Russian-Pakistani Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade and Economic and Scientific-Technological Cooperation in Islamabad this month. The two countries agreed to set up the joint commission 10 years ago but Moscow has, till now, blocked its launch. In Sochi the Russian-Pakistani dialogue has, for the first time overcame its reluctance to develop full-fledged relations with Islamabad.
Lulka says “Russia made another thoughtful decision as it offered Pakistan help in solving the country’s energy crisis. Gazprom is ready to invest in Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, rather than in the risky TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which has the support of the United States. In addition, Russia’s Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Factory (MMK), with 75 percent of shares, will help expand the capabilities of Pakistan Steel Mills from 1 million to 3 million tons of production a year. Pakistan, in turn, can provide access to mineral resources in Balochistan and the Thar coal deposit.”
The only taboo for Russia still is sale of weapons to Pakistan but its defence technologies have been trickling into Pakistan, mostly through third countries.
- Ukrainian main battle tanks, T-80, supplied to Pakistan in the 1990s, had Russian-built key systems and components.
- Following a “private” visit to Russia by Gen. Musharraf and an official visit by army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani last summer, Russia lifted its objections to the supply to Pakistan of Chinese JF-17 fighter planes powered by Russian RD-93 engines.
- Many years ago, Russia had sold Pakistan over 40 MI-171 transport helicopters of a non-military version.
- What has made the Moscow turnaround is the realisation that seeing Islamabad as part of the region’s problems does not help to advance the Russian goal of playing a bigger role in the region.
Russia has agreed to join two long-planned regional infrastructure projects that would create energy and transport corridors from Central Asia to Pakistan across Afghanistan.
- The CASA-1000 (Central Asia-South Asia), involves the export of electricity from power-rich Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Russia is building two hydropower plants in the Central Asian states that will supply electricity for the project. The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) earlier agreed to finance the construction of power lines to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- The other project is a motor road and a railway from Tajikistan to Pakistan across the Wakhan corridor in extreme northeast Afghanistan — a buffer created on Pakistani territory by the British created at the end of the 19th century between the Russian and British empires.
- The proposed transport link resurrecting the ancient Silk Road would be a strategic gain for the countries involved. Pakistan will receive direct access to the markets of Central Asia and Russia, while Tajikistan — and Russia — will get access to Pakistani ports.
- China will also stand to gain, as the road is likely to be linked with the Karakorum Highway connecting Pakistan with China’s Xinjiang region. “Russia may become a donor of economic, social and military-political security for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan,” Chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev said commenting on the Sochi summit.
In Sochi, Mr. Medvedev renewed Russia’s offer to rebuild about 140 industrial and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, which the USSR set up during its 10-year military occupation. The deals may be worth over $1 billion, and may commence further Russian investments in Afghanistan’s oil, gas and minerals. Moscow’s return to Afghanistan may also encourage many of the 2,00,000 Soviet-educated Afghans, who fled the Taliban to Russia, to return to their homeland. Surprisingly Russian has indicated the willingness to become militarily involved in Afghanistan. Russia was ready to supply Mi-17 helicopters and firearms, and help to train more Afghan police. The Obama Adminitration is crafting an exit strategy in Afghanistan, has welcomed Moscow’s new role in the region–though this welcome is constrained by several other parameters. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley in Sochi said that America has “a regional strategy for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Russia could play an important role along with other countries in the region.”
Russia is giving considerable support to the U.S. in Afghanistan in line with the broader “reset” in their bilateral ties–supply lines, access to Central Asia, and support to the US and NATO effort– but America is overly presumptuous to think that Moscow will toe its “strategy” in the region, assuming, of course, that the White House has one.
- India could theoretically gain from joint economic projects mooted by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Some Russian analysts have even suggested that Russia might try to incorporate India in the new alliance.
- This possibility, however, looks highly remote given the current state of relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. Pakistan has dug in its feet on allowing Indian exports through its territory under the recently concluded Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA). Meanwhile, the APTTA grants Pakistan the right to trade with Central Asia via the Wakhan corridor.
Realizing all this Delhi wants to turning around its relations with Islamabad–else it will stand to lose in a big way when a new transport corridor links Pakistan with Central Asia. The Sochi summit also dimmed India’s hopes of gaining a strategic foothold in Tajikistan. India had planned to jointly use the Ayni airfield (Delhi’s base in Tajikistan), which India helped to renovate, but Indian presence there looks doubtful now in the context of the emerging Russia-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Tajikistan axis. Tajikistan has asked Bharat to vacate the base.
The US-Indian nexus has created new realities in Asia. Delhi will, of course, remain Russia’s strategic partner, but it will have to learn to live with the new Russian-Pakistani bonhomie, just as Russia has taken in its stride India’s entanglement with the U.S. Changing face of Russia-Pakistan ties.
Lulka says that “It is important to remember that Pakistan sits on the crossroads of east to west and north to south trade corridors, including the new Silk Road Project in South Asia, which the Americans cherish. Russia needs to firmly define its economic priorities and defend them strongly. If the resources are not needed, then one should keep the transportation routes of those resources under control. A mega breakthrough is possible in the future: the “Persian Gulf – Bering Strait” railroad. The road will cross the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Turksib and the Trans-Asian Railway from China to Europe. ”
Keywords: Russia-Pakistan ties, India-Russia relationship, Sochi summit. Changing face of Russia-Pakistan ties Vladimir Radyuhin