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Pakistan-Russia relations warm up

By       Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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Russia-Pakistan-America relations

According to Khalid Iqbal, retired Air Commodore and former assistant chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force, bumpy Pak-US relations have prompted an urge in Pakistan to balance out and diversify its interests. In an article of Russia-Pakistan-America relations, he argued: "Decades of reliance on America has resulted in multifaceted and lopsided dependencies. As of now, Pakistan can only act as a mere spectator against US policies and demands. Hence, when President Barack Obama, in New York, said that he had no time to meet President Asif Zardari, no one was surprised. Obama had acted in a similar way during the Nato conference in Chicago."

On Russia-Pakistan relations, Air Commodore Iqbal was of the view that Pakistan is not looking for a cold war era style breakaway from the US; it only seeks a balancing out of its relations by constructively engaging with other major powers. He recalled that it was due to America's urging that the process of Pak-Russia normalization started in the late 1990s. In this regard, visits by former President Pervez Musharraf in February 2003 and by President Zardari in May 2011 were landmark events. However, Russia is watching whether Pakistan is serious about bringing about a paradigm shift in its foreign policy.

Air Commodore Iqbal believes that though Russia and Pakistan have left behind the bitterness of the past but a total interchange in roles with India switching to the US camp and Pakistan to the Russia's is not envisaged. "Russia and India have historic ties that are unlikely to rupture. Likewise, Pakistan cannot do without the US, because Russia is not in a position to offer it the requisite level of aid and defense support. Things are not set to change dramatically. But even a modest change would be immensely useful. Things in Afghanistan are changing where both Pakistan and Russia have a convergence of interests. The main purpose of Mr Putin's visit was to attend the Quadrilateral Summit. However, he was to extensively engage with Pakistani leadership for what was described as "formalizing the silent reset" in Pak-Russia relations."

Air Commodore Iqbal perceives serious reservations and anxiety in the Indian and American circles over the growing Pak-Russia relations. "New Delhi and Washington have been striving hard to impede the pace. Despite its strategic alliance with the US, India still enjoys a good political, military and diplomatic relationship with Russia. India certainly cannot digest that its old and time-tested partner also becomes a friend of Pakistan. The US too would oppose this development. In fact, America cannot afford that at this critical moment of the Afghan war, Russia gets closer to Pakistan and offset the pressures that America has directed on Pakistan."

Pakistan 's dependence on American military hardware is phenomenal. Pakistani military has always been keen to diversify its supply sources, he said adding: An opening towards Russia would certainly serve the interests of military leadership.

The endgame in Afghanistan

According to Air Commodore Iqbal, the endgame in Afghanistan is one of the major factors behind the evolving Pak-Russia rapprochement. "Russia would not like US military bases in Afghanistan and so would Pakistan. India foresees a role in Afghanistan and US military bases would provide it a dedicated strength to continue as an American proxy. The Russian President's Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said: "Our own experience in the past and the track record of others in recent years has taught us that the problem of Afghanistan cannot be resolved without the constructive involvement of Pakistan and Iran."

"In Pakistan, there is a nationwide consensus, cutting across the political divide, to develop a robust relationship with Russia. We look forward for an early rescheduling of President Putin's visit. Both the governments should speed up the preparatory work to make the summit a resounding success," he conclu

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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