Pakistan baits Russia as no big ideas drive Delhi-Moscow ties If it happens this will definitely be a first for Pakistan and Russia. The buzz doing the rounds is a visit by President Putin to Islamabad sometime this September. The Pakistanis claim dates have been finalized although the Russians are yet to confirm. But the presence in Islamabad recently of Moscow's top envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, suggests both sides are working towards a visit. Why now? The reach out is driven by a host of factors. Current thinking in Moscow may be seeing Pakistan as part of the Solution (as well as the Problem) to stabilizing Afghanistan. China has probably been pushing Moscow in that direction for some time. The downward graph in Islamabad's relations with Washington are another reason. But Moscow may not be willing to fund Pakistan in the manner Uncle Sam has been doing. There could be offers of some military aid, arms and ammunition, maybe not T-90 tanks but helicopters definitely. Moscow may also be willing to go along with China's transfer of military aircraft powered by Russian engines to Pakistan. But any outreach to Pakistan would have to be weighed very carefully against its possible impact on India, South Asia's heavyweight. New Delhi (along with China) remains a major customer for Russian military equipment. Indian orders have kept sectors of Russia's otherwise moribund defence industry in business. The Indian economy is bigger and more diversified than Russia's (which remains dependent on oil and gas), and India remains a key partner in the BRIC and RIC forums. Nevertheless, relations with India have stagnated. There are no big ideas driving the relationship, no fancy trade figures. Increasingly India is diversifying its arms purchases, and the civil nuclear programme faces uncertainties (although the Russians are the biggest beneficiaries so far). But as a sovereign nation India has every right to look at its interests, a position that is at odds with Moscow's perhaps paternalistic view of India. The two sides have to work through these issues. But Moscow (at least in the near term) may not want to go the whole hog in cultivating Pakistan. For one, don't expect Pakistan's early entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Considering the lack of any achievement so far, even China is known to be disinclined to admit its "all weather ally". So no Pakistan means no India (which is fair). One last point (which may well knock all that I've written above). The Russians will be paranaoid about security for Putin and given the situation in Islamabad (where even President Zardari is rarely known to be seen in public), one wonders if this visit could happen at all. Maybe Putin and Zardari could schedule a summit on neutral (more secure) ground?