Cozying up to Russia

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IT is, perhaps, for the first time that a substantive change is visible in Pakistan-Russia relations, which augurs well for the two countries that remained apart despite geographical proximity and the advantages that could have been derived from the closer partnership. In a sign of revival of their ties, Islamabad and Moscow have decided to hold joint military exercise this year besides Pakistan exploring the option for acquisition of modern aircraft from the Russian Federation.
Apparently, geo-strategic transformation taking place in the region has served as incentive for the two countries to reach out to each other and growing economic, political and defence ties indicate willingness on their part to forge their ties. Russia has been making goodwill gestures to Pakistan for quite some time and expressed readiness to fund several vital projects within the country and also in the regional cooperative framework. However, some circles had been suggesting that Russia is using its ties with Pakistan as a bargaining tool with its former ally India. But there have been monumental changes in India’s foreign and defence policies and posturing with New Delhi felling whole hog in the lap of the United States and there are bleak chances of India going back to the same level of dependency on Russia as in the past. With India factor receding, Russia will have no hesitation to enter into closer cooperative relationship with Pakistan provided there is reciprocity from Islamabad. We have long been emphasizing that Pakistan must maintain cordial ties with the United States but there was absolutely no justification for putting all our foreign policy eggs in one basket. Unfortunately, our policy and decision-makers compromised national interests by over-dependence on the United States, which ditched Pakistan several times and that too during crucial periods in the history. Now again when Pakistan is exploring its options to safeguard its security and defence interests, a spokesman of the US Government has tried to give Islamabad a lollipop by assuring long-term partnership but we must be cautious as the stated objectives of Washington for this engagement are Pakistan’s nuclear programme and its role and importance in the war against terror. Apart from the United States, Japan too has entered the race to boost India’s military prowess by supplying surveillance aircraft on the plea of containing China but Pakistan has reasons to be alarmed because of its bitter experience. Therefore, besides forging ties with China, Pakistan should also have meaningful discussions with Russia to sort out irritants and expand ties in different fields. These talks should lead to the long-awaited visit of President Putin to Pakistan.