Pakistan, Russia sign historic defense pact: Implications for Pak-Russia relations and Region
Pakistan and Russia on Thursday signed an agreement pertaining to the strengthening of defense cooperation between the two states and sale of military equipment. The agreement also aimed at bringing peace and stability in the region. The agreement was signed during the visit of the Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu to Pakistan. It was the first ever visit of any Russian Defence minister to Pakistan.
Long History of Estrangement
After independence, Soviet Union was the first country to extend formal invitation to Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. The dates suggested for the Moscow visit clashed with Pakistan’s Independence Day. Karachi asked for a slight change of dates. For unknown reasons, there was no reply from Moscow and hence Liaquat Ali could not visit Moscow. He was so serious about the Moscow visit that even the official entourage was finalized. However, he then visited USA, which had also extended invitation to Liaquat Ali.
Soviet hostility was aroused after Pakistan became a member of anti-communism organizations SEATO and CENTO. Consequently, Soviet Union forged strong relationship with India and supported India during the 1965 and 1971 wars.
Pakistan’s active support of the Afghan resistance forces against the Soviet invasion in 1980s turned the relationship hostile.
Relations in Post 9/11 period
In the post 9/11 period, there has been a relative normalization of relations between the two countries. Both countries have come increasingly close, in consequence of the emerging convergences on issues such as terrorism, economic cooperation, energy cooperation, etc.
Pakistan-Russia recent deals
Russia had lifted its embargo on arms supplies to Pakistan in June this year. The recent visit of the Russian defense minister also comes against the backdrop of reports that Moscow had given a go-ahead for the sale of MI-35 helicopters to Pakistan, which is interested in purchasing up to 20 helicopters.
Resumption of bilateral visits
Over the past few years, Pakistan has assiduously courted Russia to boost bilateral relations. Former Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Russia in 2009 and 2012.
In 2011, Pakistan’s then President Asif Zardari made the first official visit to Russia by any Pakistani head of state in 37 years, after Zulfiqar Bhutto’s trip to Moscow.
In 2012, Vladimir Putin was expected to be the first Russian president to visit Pakistan, but his visit was cancelled without assigning any reasons. To offset the diplomatic setback caused by the unexpected cancellation of his much-anticipated visit, Putin sent his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Pakistan.
US-Russia recent feud on Ukrainian crisis
The ongoing escalation of tension between Russia and USA was predictable, following Russia’s rise from the ashes of the USSR and the will to determine its internal and foreign policy and future itself. The Ukrainian crisis became a pretext to trigger the situation that finally turned to be just an act in a long play.
Despite attempts to find a political and peaceful resolution to the bloody civil war in Ukraine, the still rising escalation does not seem to have an end on the horizon. There is little hope for better relations between the giants.
India and USA cooperation in Indian Ocean: Countering China maritime threat
China and India continue to vie for maritime influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
China’s principal interest is to protect the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) along the Indian Ocean, vital for the country’s energy imports. In the long-term, China may actively work to create alternative energy supply routes.
China fears that the USA is trying to contain China by roping in the Indian Ocean littorals within an ‘Indo-Pacific’ framework. China’s drive to build infrastructure in IOR littorals is already showing Chinese efforts to woo these littorals through economic and other means.
India may become more assertive in the IOR. Therefore, China tends to believe that India will always maintain its strategic autonomy with other nations, particularly the USA.
India and USA has been regularly conducting naval exercise (Malabar Exercises) since 1992. The 2014 edition of the Malabar Exercises included Japan. The recent Malabar Exercises is the Indian, US and Japanese effort to balance China’s increasing naval assertiveness in the region.
India’s reliance on Western countries for purchasing arms
India had long been Russia’s ‘exclusive military technical cooperation partner’. In trying to compete with China militarily, India has become the world’s largest importer of weapons. India has also been building military ties with Israel, France, and the USA, while also trying to stimulate a domestic industry.
Consequently, Moscow reportedly downgraded that status to ‘preferred partner’ after India diversified its defence procurements and increasingly began relying on Western sources for meeting its hardware requirements. In 2011, Russia was displaced by the US as India’s biggest arms supplier.
India is currently the largest buyer of Israeli defense hardware. India has bought $662 million of Israeli arms since Modi assumed power, six months ago. That is more than the total value of Israel’s defense exports to India in the prior three years.
India was the top foreign buyer of USA arms last year. In 2009, India imported only $200 million in military equipment from the US; by 2013 that had jumped to $2 billion.
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