Pakistan: Russia's New Best Friend?

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by Neo, Sep 30, 2015.

  1. Neo

    Neo Senior Member Senior Member

    Feb 17, 2009
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    Pakistan: Russia's New Best Friend?
    Arif Rafiq
    September 27, 2015


    As the U.S.-India embrace tightens, former Cold War foes Pakistan and Russia are bolstering ties with one another. Pakistan was an early Cold War partner of the United States, ultimately helping to evict the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. While India proclaimed a policy of non-alignment, it was firmly allied with the Soviet Union, which served as its chief defense supplier for decades. Those strong ties continued following the end of the Cold War into recent years.

    While India’s defense arsenal remains overwhelmingly Russian in origin, over the past four years, Washington has supplanted Moscow to become New Delhi’s top defense supplier. Moscow, realizing that its longtime partner is now seeing other people, has lifted an arms embargo on Islamabad, which is keen on modernizing its military and reducing its dependence on Washington.

    Budding cooperation between Pakistan and Russia goes beyond military sales. The two countries will also boost economic and energy cooperation. And a strategic partnership may be down the road—potentially involving China.

    On Opposite Sides of the Cold War

    In Pakistan, the standard narrative of Islamabad-Moscow relations begins a purportedly fateful choice said to have been made in 1949. That year, Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was invited by Moscow for a state visit, which he promptly accepted. However, upon receiving an invitation from Washington, Liaquat cancelled the Moscow visit, going to Washington instead, beginning what would become an on-again, off-again relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

    A senior Pakistani diplomat who served twice in Moscow disputes that account as inaccurate. Nonetheless, from the 1950s to the end of the Cold War, Pakistan generally remained aligned with the United States. Pakistan joined the U.S.-led Central Treaty Organization and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization alliances. It hosted CIA spy flight missions from Peshawar (including the ill-fated flight of U-2 pilot Gary Powers). Pakistani President Ayub Khan saw his country as America’s “most allied ally in Asia.”

    In 1965, with the breakout of war between India and Pakistan, the United States imposed arms embargoes on both countries. Pakistan, spurred by then-Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, sought to reduce its dependence on the United States and flirted with non-alignment. Islamabad accepted Soviet negotiation of a settlement to the 1965 war with India. In the coming years, the Soviets also constructed Pakistan’s largest iron and steel manufacturing complex, known as Pakistan Steel Mills. Bhutto’s bid to diversify ties yielded substantial gains on the China front—a legacy that lasts till today. But the Soviets were firmly devoted to India, especially on defense and security matters.
    In August 1971, as civil war worsened between West and East Pakistan, which were separated by over a thousand miles of Indian territory, Moscow and New Delhi signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, which stated that an attack on one treaty member would be seen by the other as an attack on itself. Months later, India, which had been covertly supporting secessionists in East Pakistan, formally stepped in, defeating West Pakistan in war and helping create the new country of Bangladesh.

    The Soviet Union and United States supported opposite sides during the 1971 war. Washington stepped up arms shipments to Islamabad and sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal in a show of support to Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Soviets sent vessels to counter the American naval presence.

    Less than a decade later, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan became a frontline state in the Cold War. Pakistan, in concert with the United States and other smaller powers, boosted the ragtag mujahideen into a formidable insurgent force, paving the way for the eviction of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union itself. Pakistan was home to millions of Afghan refugees, and served as a military and political base for its insurgent groups. The Afghan intelligence agency KHAD, in concert with the KGB, conducted terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The Soviets also conducted air and artillery attacks on Pakistani territory.

    Post-Cold War Continuity

    The India-Russia alliance endured even with the end of the Cold War. In the 1990s, both countries supported the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Pakistan-backed Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and later, the Taliban. Moscow remained New Delhi’s top defense supplier until recently. And both countries have increased joint defense production ventures, such as the BrahMos cruise missile.

    Since the late 1990s, Pakistan has sought to grow ties with Russia, but Moscow remained wedded to New Delhi and had deep concerns about Islamabad’s support for militant groups and past record of nuclear proliferation.

    A November 2003 joint statement by India and Russia articulated “the need for Pakistan” to prevent militant infiltration into Indian-controlled Kashmir and “dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan and Pakistan controlled territory.” A month later, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf visited Russia at the invitation of Russian president Vladimir Putin. But the meetings did little to push the relationship forward. The presence of Chechen and Central Asian militants inside Pakistan and Afghanistan remained a concern for Moscow, and even more so after the 2004 terrorist attack on a school in Beslan.

    Discontent with Traditional Allies Sparks Shift

    The year 2011 was terrible for U.S.-Pakistan relations. It began with the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA security officer on a Lahore street. Months later, U.S. special operations forces launched a covert raid deep into Pakistan territory to kill Osama bin Laden. In the following months, U.S. officials embittered by the presence of bin Laden in Pakistan, engaged in a media war against Islamabad, leaking damaging claims to The Atlantic, New York Times and other publications about Pakistan’s human rights record, support for militants and nuclear weapons program. The year ended with a U.S. attack on a Pakistani base that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers, forcing Islamabad to shut down the Pakistan-based NATO supply route into Afghanistan.

    It took eight months for the U.S. to issue an apology and the supply route to reopen. Relations between Islamabad and Washington have since steadily improved. But the events of 2011 sparked a long conversation in Pakistan on the need to move beyond the United States to diversify its relations with global powers.

    In Pakistani newspaper columns, on talk shows and in official meetings, the consensus was clear: the end of American hegemony was near and Pakistan should adjust to and exploit a G-Zero world. In fact, in Pakistan’s public discourse, the aforementioned anecdote about Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s supposed choice to visit Washington over Moscow and thus paved the way for a long and tumultuous partnership with the United States was oft-mentioned and criticized.

    In the Islamabad-Washington impasse, Moscow saw an opportunity it could exploit. And Pakistan’s power elite was keen on engaging Russia. In January 2012, a conference of Pakistani envoys recommended broadening ties with Moscow “to reduce reliance on the U.S.” A month later, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, a staunch realist, visited Moscow, beginning a dialogue on the future of Afghanistan, aircraft sales, energy trade and a capital injection into the now-fledgling Pakistan Steel Mills. Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Moscow that September to move the dialogue forward on defense acquisitions. Putin was scheduled to visit Pakistan soon after, but the visit was canceled for unknown reasons.

    Let’s Do Business

    Despite the cancelation of the Putin visit, Moscow’s interest in engaging Islamabad has only grown.

    Russia sees Pakistan as critical to the stability of its backyard. As the U.S. presence in Afghanistan dwindles, Pakistan’s role in a negotiated settlement with the Taliban becomes even more vital. In contrast to the 1990s, Russia is more keen to work with Pakistan in stabilizing Afghanistan, especially given China’s endorsement of the peace negotiations.

    Also, factors that previously held Moscow back from engaging Islamabad have been weakened. Pakistan has largely cleansed its tribal areas of foreign militants, including those from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Over the course of a decade, Islamabad has made great strides in improving its nuclear safety and export control systems. And Moscow’s long-time partner, New Delhi, has rapidly increased defense acquisitions from Washington, making the United States, not Russia, its largest arms supplier over the past four years

    International sanctions following the Ukraine invasion have brought renewed urgency in Russia to exploit new defense and energy trade markets. Russia has moved forward with defense sales to Pakistan despite Indian objections.
    In June 2014, the Russian deputy prime minister was informed by Indian officials that sale of combat aircraft to Pakistan would be crossing a red line. Nonetheless, last November, Islamabad and Moscow signed a defense cooperation agreement, which included a commitment to sell Mi-35 combat helicopters. The sale of an initial four Mi-35 helicopters was finalized this August and could be expanded to 20 in the coming years.

    Earlier this year, Pakistan closed a deal with Russia to import Klimov RD-93 engines for the JF-17 aircraft it jointly manufactures with China. Previously, Pakistan would import them from Russia via China. Direct imports will lower the cost of production and perhaps aid Pakistan’s export prospects.

    Surprisingly, Moscow and Islamabad are also in the initial phases of talks on the sale of the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet, a long-range combat aircraft that would enhance Pakistan’s ability to conduct maritime patrols and penetrate deeper into enemy territory. The export of the Su-35 will provide a real test of the extent to which Russia is willing to depart from its historic alliance with India. Pakistan is also exploring the purchase of a range of other Russian defense hardware, including the Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft.

    Pakistan and Russia are also intent on enhancing economic ties. They are close to finalizing a $2-2.5 billion pipeline deal that would transmit natural gas from the port city of Karachi to Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city. Russia may also join Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the CASA-1000 energy project, providing Afghanistan and Pakistan with electricity.

    For several years, Moscow has been rumored to be interested in either providing the Pakistan Steel Mills with a cash infusion or purchasing a stake in the state-owned enterprise. Pakistan aims to privatize the company by the end of this year, and we may see Russian companies get into the mix.

    Islamabad and Moscow are also looking to expand bilateral trade. Pakistan has expressed interest in establishing a free trade agreement with the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union. And a Pakistani trade authority delegation recently visited Moscow in a bid to negotiate lower non-tariff trade barriers for Pakistani goods.
    Toward a Strategic Partnership?

    All is not well between India and Russia. Recent defense sales by Moscow to Islamabad signal the former’s discontent with New Delhi. Russia may have also colluded with China to obstruct India’s path to permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

    But India and Russia are unlikely to make a complete break with the past. India will remain a major defense partner of Russia. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Moscow this December. The two countries may push forward deals to purchase or co-produce the fifth generation Sukhoi T-50 fighter and they will continue cooperation over the development of strategic weapons. New Delhi might also purchase T-90MS tanks from Moscow.

    While defense cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi will continue, they appear to be less bound by a common regional strategy. Meanwhile, China is making a formidable entry into Central and South Asia, mainly in terms of trade corridors, but also in respect to forging peace in Afghanistan. Its development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, along with the sale of eight submarines to Islamabad, may pave the way for a more assertive Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean strategy.

    Is there a space for Russia in all this? Commentators in India and Pakistan have referred to a possible China-Pakistan-Russia strategic alliance, including in the maritime theater. But this may be more of a reflection of Pakistani aspirations and as well as Indian insecurity and lack of analytic restraint.

    What we are more likely to see is India and Russia continuing to act more autonomously of one another. But India will have to learn to adjust to Russia’s new-found fondness for Pakistan. If it has difficulty in doing so, there is risk that we may be entering a period in which India’s tighter embrace of the United States brings Russia closer to Pakistan, and Russia’s bolstering of ties with Pakistan brings India closer to the United States.

    Pakistan’s successful wooing of Russia is one example of its ability to deftly navigate the complexity of a G-Zero world, in which there are multiple centers of gravity and no sole country or alliance is able to “drive an international agenda.”
    With strong or growing ties with all permanent UNSC members as well as regional powers like Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, Pakistan is becoming what geostrategist Ian Bremmer calls a “pivot state.” For a country that faced potential global isolation in 2011, Pakistan’s growing list of friends is a testament to its diplomatic prowess and a civil-military consensus to push these relationships forward.

    Arif Rafiq is president of Vizier Consulting, LLC, which provides strategic guidance on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues.
  3. Neo

    Neo Senior Member Senior Member

    Feb 17, 2009
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    How Will Pakistan-Russia-India Relationship Evolve?

    Although the two nations were generally on opposite sides of the Cold War, Pakistan and Russia are gradually building closer ties.

    India was in fact a close ally of the Soviet Union, which was its main defense supplier, but now New Delhi is forging increasingly strong ties with the United States rather than Russia. This move encouraged Moscow to lift an arms embargo on Islamabad, but now it appears that cooperation between Russia and Pakistan will move beyond arms sales. writes Arif Rafiq for The National Interest.


    Historic alliances called into question

    During the Cold War, Pakistan was a staunch ally of the U.S., and even helped to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Later on, despite a brief flirtation with the Soviets, Pakistan remained allies with the U.S. while the Soviets devoted their efforts to India.

    The India-Russia alliance continued after the fall of the Soviet Union, with both nations supporting the Afghan Northern Alliance against the Pakistan-backed Taliban. One reason for Russia's support of India over Pakistan was its concerns about militants operating with Islamabad's support, especially following a wave of militant attacks in Russia, including the 2004 Beslan school shooting.

    Things started to change in 2011 as U.S.-Pakistan relations worsened. A sense of mutual resentment developed due to the continued presence of militants, including Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan, and U.S. military action on Pakistani soil which caused the deaths of innocent people.

    Although relations have since improved, 2011 was the year that Pakistan started to seriously consider alternatives to an all-in relationship with the United States. Officials in Moscow saw an opportunity, and were met with a positive reaction by Pakistan.

    Russia shows increased interest in cooperation with Pakistan

    Moscow's previous concerns over militants have been reduced, and Pakistan now looks like a key player in keeping regional peace. At the same time India has been drawn closer to the U.S., meaning that Russia has more incentive to explore new trade partnerships, especially in the light of Western sanctions imposed over Ukraine.

    Russia's traditional ally India has been upset by recent arms deals with Pakistan, including Mi-35 combat helicopters. Talks are also underway about the sale of the Sukhoi S-35 fighter jet, and sales to Pakistan could mark the end of Russia's historic alliance with India.

    Economic ties may also be strengthened, with talks about a $2-2.5 billion pipeline deal in their final stages. The pipeline would run from Karachi to Lahore.

    Rumors have been swirling for some time that Moscow may invest in the national steel producer Pakistan Steel Mills. As it stands Islamabad plans to privatize the company by 2016, and Russian companies may invest.

    Bilateral trade could also increase if a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union can be reached, a possibility that Pakistan has expressed an interest in. Additionally a Pakistani delegation recently went to Moscow in an attempt to press for lower non-tariff trade barriers for Pakistani goods.
    Pakistan-Russia cooperation to continue alongside relationship with India

    Evidently relations between India and Russia have regressed, with arms sales to Islamabad one sign of Moscow's discontent. Analysts also believe that Russia and China may have colluded to block India's permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

    However bad the situation looks right now, it seems unlikely that India and Russia will completely break ties. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Moscow in December, and a deal to purchase or co-produce a 5th generation Sukhoi T-50 warplane may be on the table.

    Although cooperation may continue on defense matters, Russia and India's regional strategies appears to be increasingly divergent. China is also an increasingly important actor in Central and South Asia, with important economic and defense partnerships with Pakistan. The question for Russia is whether there is really room for them as an ally of Pakistan?

    What next for regional geopolitics?

    One possibility is a strategic alliance between Russia, China and Pakistan, but at the moment that seems unlikely. Rafiq believes that it is more like to see Russia and India acting independently of each other, while India struggles to get used to Moscow's closer ties with Islamabad.

    Although we cannot say what will happen in the next few years, Pakistan has done a good job strengthening ties with a number of countries. After staring international isolation in the face, Pakistan has good ties with the permanent members of the UN Security Council, in addition to Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    As such, Pakistan is becoming a "pivot state" in the eyes of geostrategist Ian Bremmer. For now it seems that Islamabad has shown great skill in navigating the choppy waters of international relations.

    With China investing heavily and the possibility of further cooperation with Russia, Pakistan is well placed to profit from an alternative axis of power in Asia.
  4. prohumanity

    prohumanity Senior Member Senior Member

    Sep 2, 2013
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    This is the last chance for Pakistan to join the community of major nations, Brazil, Russia, India,China and South Africa. If Paki still believes that they can pit these major powers against each other...they are smoking pig shit powder and soon find out that old policy of being a pawn ...does not work in todays world. Paki will be better off becoming civil and join hands against anti-terrorism forces and forget using terrorists as "strategic assets"
    Paki masters in far away places won't be able to shelter the terrorism sponsoring elements in Paki.
  5. rock127

    rock127 Maulana Rockullah Senior Member

    Aug 12, 2009
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    Pakis are just going nuts over recent Russian interest in Pakistan the Terrorist State.They are feeling so lonely that they have started claiming anyone as "New Best friend".They are always ready to adopt new daddies.

    Russia would use Pakis like toilet paper since they wanna make US uncomfortable rather than India.

    Their recent SU-35 false propaganda was punctured big time by Russia terming Pakis as bunch of LIARS and Pakis are not responding to that ... :lol:

    Russia: No SU-35 discussion/talks/plan happened with Pakistan

    We might see Russia involved in these cartoons in addition to Saudis,Amrika and China soon using Pakis as R.A.N.D.I. and G.A.N.D.U.


    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    Interesting what putin is doing in developing relations with Pakistan while leading a shiite alliance to victory in Syria. I wonder if there is any connection?
  7. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

    May 4, 2009
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    New Delhi
    These wishy washy articles emanating from so called experts in Pakistan are all wet dreams.

    The current state of Pakistani and Russian economy do not in any way suggest any sort of strategic partnership. Putin's Russia needs Dollars and friends in that order. Pakistan fails on the first count itself. It cannot offer any major source of Dollars for the Russian economy and nor can it offer any mega defence deal.

    We have been hearing from Pakistan about huge reserves of Coal, Gold, Gas and what not for decades and yet nothing has happened. A country which is unable to add even 1000 MW of power per year on a regular basis cannot hold pretensions to be a major industrial player. This is also a country which cannot even run a viable Railway network.

    We shall see all these reports and debates in the TV for sometime and then something new will pop up. Already the so called Chinese investment of US $ 46 Billion is fading from the public fora in Pakistan, and unfortunately will remain a wet dream for them.
  8. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

    Jan 27, 2012
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    Podigai Hills.
    To add, one such report was the sale of Su35 by Rus to Pak which Russia categorically denied. Must give us a perspective on how seriously we can take their nonsense(analyses)
  9. Sylex21

    Sylex21 Regular Member

    Sep 6, 2014
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    Pakistan and Russia aren't becoming best friends, they are simply going from outright hostile to average. That being said there really aren't any good reasons why Pakistan and Russia couldn't become better friends, except Russia would need to manage India's concerns. India really isn't in a place to criticize Russia much, considering it is strongly warming up to the United States. Still Russians are realists and know that it is quite difficult to not warm up to the world's only hyper power for now.

    Given the potential for what Pakistan could offer Russia vs what India can offer Russia, even in 20 years it seems very very unlikely that the BEST case scenario for Pakistan could be anything more than Russia being relatively neutral in Pak-India conflicts, with a slight tilt towards India. That's at the VERY BEST for Pakistan realistically.
    Sakal Gharelu Ustad likes this.

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