President Putin canceled his visit to Pakistan at the last moment. The Bharati punditry was ecstatic. The newspapers from Delhi to Deccan applauded in unison while the leftist wannabe elite in Islamabad got ample ammunition to deride the Pakistani foreign policy. Friends who get great pleasure when bad news emanates from Islamabad made it a point to send us the links. Commentators on this site were besides themselves.
The euphoria was a bit pre-mature. Now that the dust is settling down, the news from the Volga is not all that bad for Pakistan. As a matter of fact, the news is good coming from the Russian Ministry of Defence.
It seems that Russia is ready to sell arms to Pakistan, but in deference to Delhi’s sensibilities, Moscow will initially sell Islamabad equipment which is dual use. It is clear that Moscow already sells the RD-93 engine to Pakistan albeit it is through China. Pakistan can now expect direct sales from Moscow.
Kommersant Sergei Strokan, has written an article “Pakistan and Russia move closer toward military cooperation.”
He quotes Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies says “Russia no longer intends to please India by refusing to cooperate militarily with Pakistan – a country that holds serious sway over the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan.”
- “Pakistan exerts huge influence over the country. Moscow is racking its brains over how to ensure the safety and security of the southern borders of the CIS when U.S. and NATO troops finally pull out of Afghanistan. If Russia continues to snub Pakistan in favor of India, it would ultimately run contrary to the interests of Russia’s security,” Pukhov said.
Russia is expected to assist Pakistan in upgrading the Steel Mills, and providing roads and rail assistance in connecting Tajikistan with Pakistan. Some MOUs have also been signed on energy.
- “Russia is unlikely to sell Islamabad an air defense system or fighter aircraft,” said Pukhov. “Still, dual-use systems, such as the Mi-17 helicopter, could be supplied, in addition to combat training and the exchange of military experts.”
The news emanating from the Caucus mountains is that Russia want to get closer to Pakistan because Islamabad holds tremendous influence on Afghanistan and the former Turkish states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan etc. It is to be noted that Pakistan has a border with Tajikistan –were it not for the Wakhan corridor–which was illegally handed over to Afghanistan to create a buffer between the IVC successor state of Pakistan and the USSR.
Joshua Kucera has also written an artcile–”Fearing Afghanistan, Russia Gets Closer To Pakistan”.
- Russian Ministry of Defense, in an interview with Kommersant:
- “India remains Moscow’s most important partner in the area of [military-technical cooperation], both in terms of volume and potential. Yet Delhi’s attempts to diversify its supplies of new weapons – increasingly from Western countries – are making Russia flinch. Moscow has explained to Delhi, in no uncertain terms, that it can also diversify its military-technical ties by means of a rapprochement with Pakistan.”
Press reports emanating from Russia seem to indicate that Russia is keenly interested in building ties with Pakistan. A regional block could be the end result. Moscow already has set up the Dushambe 4 with Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The SCO is another vehicle which unites Pakistan with Russia.
- The Hindu, in a piece headlined “Growing Russia-Pakistan ties a reality that India will have to live with” quotes an unnamed Russian diplomat saying as much:
- “India could have been more loyal to Russia in the field of military and technical cooperation and saved it from the disagreeable situation in which Moscow on its own has to search for markets to sell military equipment meant for Delhi,” said another Russian diplomat. The consolation: even in the most optimistic scenario, the diplomat asserted, military cooperation between Russia and Pakistan would remain insignificant and would not alter the balance of power in the region.
- But Afghanistan is perhaps the key driver in the Russia-Pakistan rapprochement, writes Sadhavi Chauhan in an analysis for OpenDemocracy:
- While Pakistan’s deteriorating relations with the US have led it to look for new regional allies, Russia’s increased closeness to Islamabad is primarily motivated by the situation in Pakistan and around. As the US prepares to curtail its presence in Afghanistan by 2014, Russia fears that state failure in that country will cause a spillover of Islamic fundamentalism into Central Asia, and from there into the southern regions of Russia. Having just dealt with Islamist secessionist movements in Chechnya and the South Caucasus, this is not a scenario that Russia would welcome.
- In this context, while Russia is aware of Islamabad’s role in fomenting international terrorism, it realises that any successful resolution of the problems associated with Afghanistan must involve Pakistan. A cancelled presidential visit cannot change the relevance of this, or of Russia’s goal, in enhancing ties with Pakistan, of securing greater cooperation on counter terrorism.
- Pukhov agrees:
- “Pakistan exerts huge influence over the country. Moscow is racking its brains over how to ensure the safety and security of the southern borders of the CIS when U.S. and NATO troops finally pull out of Afghanistan. If Russia continues to snub Pakistan in favor of India, it would ultimately run contrary to the interests of Russia’s security.”
- And Russian defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov, visiting New Delhi this week, assured Indians that Moscow would continue to be on their side, reports the Economic Times:
- He was asked if there was any change in Russian policy of not arming India’s adversaries. “I will make a very short comment that we have not had any change in our legislation whatsoever,” Russian defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told reporters here at a joint press conference with Indian Defence Minister AK Antony.
- So it looks like Putin will be making that trip to Islamabad one of these days.