Col (Retd) Muhammad Hanif
AS is well known, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative, launched by China’s President Xi Jinping that reflects Jinping’s economic strategy to integrate Asia with Europe, Middle East and Africa, through B&R. In this strategy of China, Pakistan and Russia are two important countries because of the CPEC, that connects China with the Middle East, and Africa and Russia, to connect B&R with the Eurasian Economic Union. Thus, in view of these connectivity projects, China, Pakistan and Russia have common economic interests to develop their mutual relations.
Since the time of the cold war, the former USSR (now Russia) has been interested in reaching the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Straits of Hormuz, as its own ports do not remain operational throughout the year due to its snow clad seas in the winter. In the post cold war and post 9/11, volatile geostrategic environment, Russia’s tense relations with the US and EU countries, its close relations with China, and its evolving good relations with Pakistan, to reach the warm waters, Russia has indicated its interest to join the CPEC to build its economic and strategic relations with the South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
And now, it is quite easy for Russia to join the CPEC, as the regional environment and its relations with Pakistan are quite conducive for it to do so. Russia’s relations with Pakistan are already progressing, because, due to Pakistan’s outstanding performance in eliminating terrorism, Russia looks friendship with Pakistan being strategically beneficial to fight out Afghanistan-related terrorism, where IS-Khorasan is being considered the main threat to Russia’s security, if it threatens the security of the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Chechnya.
Moreover, Russia is desiring to build good relations with Pakistan, as Russia sees India’s strategic interests gradually being shifted towards the US, as India has already become a close defence partner of the US and it has also signed an agreement with the US, where both countries will be able to use each other’s logistic facilities in peace, as well as in case of a war with a third country. Even China would not object Russia to become a part of the CPEC because it has good strategic relations with Russia and both the countries are working on the basis of advancing their shared interests. Hence, there is a strong likelihood that Russia will soon join the CPEC. Therefore, there is a need to examine how Russia’s joining of the CPEC will be beneficial for Pakistan?
Russia’s joining of the CPEC would be beneficial in many aspects. Firstly, it will benefit Pakistan by facilitating Russia’s trade through CPEC with the outer world that would bring financial benefit to Pakistan in the form of the transit fee. In this context, Pakistan’s trade with Russia will also increase to earn valuable foreign exchange. Moreover, if Russia joins the CPEC, it will help in further enhancing Pakistan’s economic and strategic relations with Russia. Since Russia’s interest in Pakistan will prevail for a long time to come, while it will likely increase its investment in Pakistan, it will also improve its defence relations with it to fight the IS-K. In this context, Russia will also find a defence market in Pakistan to sell its defence equipment, along with the possibility of the transfer of technology, which will strengthen Pakistan’s defence capability, in relation to India.
Also, because of good relations with Pakistan, Russia, along with China will likely extend a strong diplomatic support to Pakistan vis-a-vis India at the international forms, including the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group etc. With China being a strategic partner of Pakistan, Russia’s good relations with Pakistan by joining the CPEC will enable Pakistan to get the diplomatic support of the two Asian veto powers.
Russia being part of the CPEC will also help in diluting India’s opposition to the CPEC, being done by propagating that CPEC passes through the disputed territory. When Russia joins the CPEC, all regional countries, including China, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and CARs, all being a part of the CPEC, will support it and on this account India will be isolated at regional level and its anti-CPEC propaganda will be defeated. Hence, in view of the foregoing discussion, it can be concluded that Russia’s joining of the CPEC will bring substantial economic and strategic benefits to Pakistan.
[The writer is an ex-Army Colonel, a former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), and Senior Research Fellow, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad].
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