Evolving nature of Pak-Russia bilateral relationship
ON the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Imran Khan, accompanied by a high-level delegation his just completed his two-day visit (23-24 Feb).
A series of issues of bilateral interest were discussed during the PM Imran Khan’s meeting with the Russian President.
Whereas, bilateral trade and energy were two key areas of the visit, all regional and global issues also remained under discussion in the meeting.
Since Afghanistan is a common concern of both Pakistan and Russia, therefore the humanitarian crisis and security situation arising from Kabul have been discussed with all possible ways to help Afghanistan.
The rising trends of Islamophobia; a campaign against the Muslims and Islam was discussed.
President Putin has a very different point of view about this western propaganda against Islam and Muslims.
In December 2021, President Vladimir Putin publically said that, “insulting the Last Prophet (M-SAWW) does not count as an expression of artistic freedom but is a violation of religious freedom”.
Besides, he remained a critic of the publication of blasphemous sketches of the Last Prophet (M-SAWW) in Charlie Hebdo magazine of French.
These actions of Russian President created positive image of President Putin and Russia among the Muslims all over the globe, especially among the masses of Pakistan.
Indeed, there has been warmth in the bilateral relationship of the two countries ever since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
President General Pervez Musharraf made a landmark visit to Russia in February 2003.
This visit was, in fact, a new beginning in the bilateral relationship of the two countries.
Thereafter, there have been frequent visits by civil and military officials from both sides.
The visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan will further contribute towards deepening and strengthening the bilateral relationship between Moscow and Islamabad.
Tracing the history, the bilateral diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and the (former) Soviet Union was established on 01 May 1948.
Since the Russian Federation is the successor state of former Soviet Union, thus, there remained continuation of same diplomatic relations, after the disintegration of the latter in 1991.
It is worth mentioning that in 1958, the Soviet Union indicated its interest to provide economic and technical assistance to Pakistan in the field of agriculture and for the control of floods in Pakistan.
Pakistan welcomed the offer and in the subsequent years, President Muhammad Ayub Khan visited Moscow in April 1965, the first ever visit of a Pakistani head of state.
This landmark visit helped in removing misunderstandings and paving the way for promotion of agreements on trade, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges.
After the 1965, Indo-Pak War, Moscow mediated the famous Tashkent Declaration in January-1966.
In early 1970s, Pakistan made a major revision in its Foreign Policy and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited Moscow twice; March 1972 and October 1974.
These visits paved the way for improving bilateral relations between Pakistan and the former Soviet Union.
With the desire to promote cordial bilateral relationship, Soviet Union, installed a steel mill in Karachi, indeed, a huge project for boosting the Pakistani economy.
Unfortunately, the later years, and particularly the decade of 1980s, created a lot of misunderstandings between Moscow and Islamabad.
Indeed, if viewed from a realist’s perspective, most of misperceptions between Pakistan and Russia can be attributed to a strong US influence over Pakistan, for the ultimate promotion of its own (US) strategic objectives.
However, the bad patch of the cold war, where Pakistan remained part of US-led western alliance is over.
Indeed, US used Pakistan in order to attain its own strategic objectives of containment of Communism during the cold war and later in becoming the superpower after disintegration of the Soviet Union in early 1990s.
In the contemporary environment, Russia and Pakistan have the unanimity of views for bringing regional peace and stability in Afghanistan, after Taliban led Government in Kabul.
Under the changing regional and global scenario, a close cooperation on strategic and security issues between Russia and Pakistan is the need of the hour.
Already a strategic partnership is evolving between China and Russia for the promotion of regional peace and in order to undo the global hegemony by one power.
Apart from its close cooperation with China, Pakistan seeks Russian economic assistance in the form of foreign direct investment and technological cooperation particularly in the field of energy.
Russia seems inclined to responding to these needs in addition to increasing the trade.In the last two decades Pakistani exports to Russia have increased at an annualized rate of 14.2%, from $13.2M in 1996 to $277M in 2019.
A senior Professor of John’s Hopkins University, Daniel Markey, opines that Russia and Pakistan probably have more commonalities than Pakistan had with the United States.
The most significant aspect of Pakistan-Russia relationship is the prospects of Pakistan becoming the future energy corridor from Central Asia and Russia to South Asia and even China.
Indeed, Moscow and Islamabad have many common interests and objectives like: Regional security and stability and countering threats of terrorism.
Besides, controlling illicit arms trade, drug trafficking, money laundering, cross-border organized crimes.
In summary, “There is a solid foundation for constructing a multi-storey building of Russia-Pakistan relations.
” What all they need is to exploit the opportunities for the common good of both countries with sincerity.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.