Bilateral relationships between Russia and Pakistan did not remain on smooth keels in past. But now both countries are committed to enhancing their mutual corporation in different fields of common interest. Recent visits of high officials and different military and energy deals between Russia and Pakistan are seen as a hope for the further strengthening of their mutual relations.
In last six months Pakistan Prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Defence minister Khurram Dastageir and Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa have visited Russia and have signed many deals. Russian high officials have also visited Pakistan in last few years more frequently as compared to past.
Among different reasons of convergence of interests of Russia and Pakistan, Afghanistan conundrum is an important one. Pakistan and Russia both want a peaceful Afghanistan with a stable unbiased government. Because in other case peace of Russia and Pakistan is also at stake. The emergence of ISIS-K is a threat for peace of both countries. Islamabad and Moscow have supported the narrative of one another on different international forums. The Russian government has also given plaudits to Pakistan sacrifices in the war against terrorism.
Current US strategy in Afghanistan is running in antagonism to the interests of both states. US new Afghan policy, increase in a number of troops on Afghan soil, is a clear sign that Trump is not going to end Afghan war soon. Counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, launched by the US and the Afghan government are further spoiling the peace of Afghanistan. Kunduz attack is a bitter example that how revenge sentiments of the local population are high jacked by militant groups.
On the other hand, America wants Pakistan arch-foe India to take its place in Afghanistan. Pakistan has long been saying that India is using Afghanistan for running its proxies in Pakistan tribal areas. Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, TTP Ex-Spokesperson, statements are clear evidence of Indian intentions to exacerbate peace of Pakistan.
American support to India is totally against Pakistan’s national interests. US–Pakistan relationships are on a rudderless boat since the start of the second decade of 21st century. US government is accusing Pakistan of giving support to terrorist organizations by denying all sacrifices of Pakistan in the war against terrorism. America is also conspiring with India to include Pakistan in FATF blacklist.
In this situation, Pakistan needs close regional allies as said by Pakistan former foreign minister Khwaja Asif that foreign policy of Pakistan is now focused on the strengthening of its relationships with regional countries like Russia, China, and Turkey etc. Russia was among the first countries who gave a response to the trump statement of accusing Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists.
Pakistan is now making different Defence deals with Russia for purchasing different armaments of modern technologies.
In Past, Pakistan has imported different arms from America. But now it is moving towards Russia. Pakistan is very keen towards Russian aeronautical technologies. Pakistan marvelous jet fighter plane JF-17 thunder has Russian engine. Pakistan will buy twenty Mi-35M attack helicopters by the end of 2018. Out of these twenty, four have reached to Pakistan. Mi-35M helicopters are a good option for Pakistan to replace American made AH-Cobra helicopters.
Pakistan is also negotiating for Su-35 and Su-37 fighter jets along with Air defense system and T-90 Tank as said by Pakistan defense minister, Khurram Dastageir, during his visit to Russia in last month.
Along with these military deals, Russia and Pakistan are also looking toward joint military exercises. In September 2016 joint military exercise of Russia and Pakistan, first ever in history, Dharuzba 2016 (Frendship 2016), held in Pakistan. Russia also participated in Aman-2017 multinational naval exercises along with 34 other countries in Karachi. Pakistan and Russia strengthening militaries ties will help to promote peace and stability in the region and to fight against terrorism.
Russia is also doing investments in the energy sector of Pakistan. Discussions about $10 billion Russian investment in Pakistan in an offshore gas pipeline and north-south gas pipeline are on the table. The north-south gas pipeline will connect LNG Karachi terminal to Lahore. It will have a capacity of 12.4 billion cubic meter supply per year.
On July 3, 2017, Russian Gazprom International has also signed MoU with OGDCL Pakistan. Gazprom is working in 20 countries in four different continents. It will bring the investment of $3-4 billion in Pakistan.
On Jan 31, 2018, Russian consortium of Investors and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Company limited (KPOGCL) signed an agreement to establish an oil refinery. It will have the capacity to purify 200,000 barrels of oil per day. The estimated amount of this oil refinery investment is Rs.35 billion.
These investments by Russia will help to end energy crisis in Pakistan. Russia is also very interested to get access to warm waters of Arabian Sea through Gawader port by participating in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
India has shown its reservations on ties between Russian and Pakistan. India is one of the largest importers of Russian arms. It has enjoyed very warm relationships with Russia since its independence in 1947. India is going to buy Su-400 air defense system from Russia. In recent years both countries have signed $40 billion agreements for building ten nuclear reactors in India and $12 billion for buying Kasmov-226 helicopters. But India always looks Pakistan as a threat to its hegemonic agenda.
Russia Pakistan friendship can also be regarded as a result of Pakistan ever longing friendship with China. Bohemia between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin has played a key role in bringing Pakistan and Russia near to one another. Both China and Russia have supported Pakistan partnership in SCO.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a game changer project for the region. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of BRI. China wants Russia to join CPEC and Russia also does. In result, China, Russia, and Pakistan trilateral alliance can easily balance the rival powers. This is a death knell to Indian intentions of pushing Pakistan in diplomatic isolation.
Pakistan and Russia military ties and energy sector investments are not an end but these are beginning of a new era of warm cordial relationships between these two nations. There are many sectors in which further enhancement can be done in future. Pakistan will no longer remain dependent on American arms supply and hence it will get rid of American influence.