By Yasir Habib Khan
Amid fast-changing geo-economic and geo-strategic alignments, Pakistan and Russia, once Cold War arch enemies are laying down foundation of friendship showcasing a new world map where democracy and socialism will not only be surviving side by side but also complementing each other.
This hard reality may become instrumental in modifying the world order from unipolarism to multipolarism. The twist has deep potential to give rise to Asian bloc or an Asian Union sooner or later.
Leaving behind arch rivalry of Soviet-Afghan War fought to access warm water port in Balochistan by Russia and shadows of suspicions that socialism will erode democracy in Pakistan, Islamabad and Moscow have been stepping up confidence building measures and struggling to materialise the dream of rising Asia.
During current month in 2018, ongoing third joint Pak-Russian military exercise called Druzhba-111 is among those friendship gestures being displayed to cozy up relationship. Russia and Pakistan have been conducting “Friendship” drills since 2016. In 2016, Pakistan held first-ever joint military exercise. In 2017, Russia hosted similar exercise.
Smothering Afghan crisis, economic interdependency, anti-globalisation drive, US President Donald Trump’s unilateralism and Pakistan’s growing position in global geo-political chessboard are becoming common interests between Pakistan and Russia. The like-mindedness has basically led to unleash deep association on military cooperation and bilateral trade.
Once, Pakistan and former Soviet Union (Russia) fought against each other as foe for their own personal interests on Afghanistan. Now they have unanimous approach to address Afghan chaos. They want to bring Taliban on discussion table to iron out long-standing Afghan war. Both dismiss Trump Afghan Policy and believe that talk is the master key for entire mess.
Question rises here, as to why both are very eager to end Afghan war? Why do they team up to get rid of tumultuous situation? Answer has its roots in regional stability and economic dynamics. As matter of fact governments of Islamabad and Moscow fear penetration of ISIS or IS in Afghanistan. Besides there are some profound beliefs that US directly or indirectly is facilitating IS to infiltrate in strongholds of Taliban. According to defense analysts, US wants to use the IS as proxy against Taliban and as counterbalance against China and Russia. “the more Afghan war prolongs, the more US have strategic depth in Afghanistan,” analysts said.
Shocking revelations have sent chill down the spines of Pakistan, Russia and China. Already Pakistan authorities have detected presence of IS in the country. Under Radul Fasad, armed forces toiled hard to wipe up safe heavens of various terrorist groups. Sacrificing army and civilian people and suffering insecurity and instability at the hands of terrorist attacks, Pakistan cannot afford any further terror conglomerate to operate in country.
To ensure smooth progress on CPEC, there is dire need of hour to never let any miscreants and non-state actors to sabotage continuity of peace and pace of development. Russia is also scared of same threat against its own peace and sustainable economic vibes.
Waking up to grim reality, Islamabad and Moscow in collaboration with China have been highly active to strengthen their ties to dispel the evil and initiate process of peace dialogue. In a trilateral meet-up took place in Moscow in December, Russia, China and Pakistan put their head together to eliminate certain Taliban figures from UN sanctions lists as part of efforts to bolster an inclusive dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement.
As part of profound mutual understanding and intensifying trust building measures, high-powered Russian military delegation was welcomed first time to the North Waziristan Agency (NWA) to let them have naked eye observation about war on terror.
The cordial ties kicked off in 2011 when Pakistan reached a point to redefine connotation of its international relations deliberating first time to find new friends in the backdrop of US secret operation at Abottabad to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and then Salala tension involving deaths of many Pakistani soldiers. Later, parliamentary debate during session of assemblies paved the way for opening new chapter of rapprochement with Russia. National narrative underpinned by opinions of civil and military leadership even media also demanded gradual shift from former aids to Russia.
In order to foster closer relations, Russian Embassy has opened Consul General Office in Peshawar first time in the history. It will oversee investment promotion, shifting of modern machinery, development in oil and gas exploration, mining, transport and hydel power generation.
After Pak-Russia relationships began taking shape, 2010 Quadripartite Summit between Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan at Sochi marked an unprecedented development allowing Moscow to come close to Islamabad. Friendship touched to new heights when Pakistan’s then army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, became the first military chief to visit Russia in 2012. Besides military drills, Russia signed a spectacular defense deal with Pakistan for the sale of Russian-made Mi-35 ‘Hind E’ attack helicopters to Pakistan.
In terms of trade ties, energy corridor involving Russia and Pakistan is on cards. Recently they thrashed out an inter-governmental agreement to do feasibility study for building $10 billion offshore gas pipeline to supply gas from Russia to Pakistan. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was already inked in Moscow. From the Pakistani side Sher Afgan, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum Division, and Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Yanovsky on behalf of the government of Russia signed the landmark MoU.
The pipeline will act as energy corridor between Russia and Pakistan. Russia will get access to Pakistan market by providing gas and Pakistan will reach out to Russian market to boost their exports.
During current month, Pakistan and Russia gave extension to government to government agreement for the $2 billion North South Gas Pipeline for six months.
The project will be carried out on Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model by Russian company under Government to Government Agreement. Russia had presented initial commercial proposal in November, 2016. Pakistan sought a cut in the tolling fee for pumping liquefied natural gas (LNG).
On economic front, Pak-Russia bilateral trade relations have registered upward trend. Their trade has spiked to 33 per cent during the last one year. Trade volume that reached at $400 million last year swelled to $541 million current year.
It is now established fact that Pakistan and Russia are on same page on multiple global issues. They need to open up more avenues of cooperation to make a difference.
The writer is a senior journalist working for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relation and human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ (email@example.com )
Originally Posted on The Nation