Dr Muhammad Khan
THE New York Times in its August 10, 2018 edition disclosed that the Trump Administration has gradually reduced the opportunities for the training of Pakistani military officers, which used to be a hallmark in the bilateral relations between Pakistan and United States since 1950s. Indeed, ever since President Trump has assumed power in the US, the element of distrust between both countries has been increasing with each passing day. Though, it is said that Pentagon tried to convince the President for the continuation of this cooperative mechanism, nevertheless, Trump has his own logics, which are rapidly exasperating the defence planners at Pentagon, since it goes against the United States interests on term-terms. Former US special envoy on AfPak, Dan Feldman, declares this act of Trump as “very short-sighted and myopic.”
The News and even the ABC news considers that, “The Pentagon and the Pakistani military did not comment directly on the decision or the internal deliberations, but officials from both countries privately criticized the move.” Some sources in US were apprehensive that, such a move would pave the way for a deeper cooperation between Pakistan and Russia, whereas, Pakistan already has deeper military relationship China. US military officials are also apprehensive that, this prejudiced approach of President Trump would, “undermine a key trust-building measure” between Pakistan and US, thus United States losing a key partners in the Asian continent. Reportedly, 66 Pakistani military officers, who were to go to US as per its (US) International Military Education and Training program (IMET) could not attend the training courses in 2018. Furthermore, President Trump also suspended the military assistance and CSF, Pakistan used to get since 2001.
It is worth mentioning that, Pakistan has known such a US move even sequel to drawdown of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2015. This is not the first time that, US has done so, indeed, as a strategic partner, US has always used Pakistan for its political, economic and strategic purpose and then abandoned it many a times in last six decades. Realizing this untrustworthy relationship, Pakistan has already started diversifying its relationship with other major powers and regional countries. One Such development is signing of an agreement between Pak and Russia for training of Pakistani troops and officers in Russia. The agreement is result of lot of homework between Russia and Pakistan, spreading over last two decades. It is indeed, a beginning of a new cooperative mechanism in the defence cooperation between Pakistan and Russia. As a result of two days inaugural meeting of the Russia-Pakistan Joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC), this agreement was signed by Pakistani Defense Secretary Zamir ul Hassan Shah and visiting Russian Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Fomin. “The two sides also held in-depth discussions on avenues of future cooperation.”
This agreement and many other agreements in past few years have opened new avenues in the bilateral relationship of Russia and Pakistan. Once considered to be the rivals, this transformation in the relationship is being viewed critically by various analysts of international relations. According to dominant view, this development is part of new strategic alignment, taking place at the global level where Russia and China are trying to change the unipolor character of world order and Pakistan is being viewed as linchpin. Another class of international relations scholars feels that, the warming of Pakistan Russia relationship is primarily because of unstable situation in Afghanistan, where US presence is being seen by Russia as a challenge for the regional security. According to Petr Topychkanov, a senior research analyst at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), “Russia is concerned about the long-term presence of the US and its allies in Afghanistan, and therefore it’s in Russia’s long-term interests to have an inside view of the situation in Afghanistan.”
A senior Professor of John’s Hopkins University, Daniel Markey, view this warming up of Pak-Russia relation as developing commonalities between the former rivals of the cold war. In his opinion, this relationship would solve two key concerns of Russia; one, ‘to blunt the threat of IS from Afghanistan and two, to undermine US influence in Afghanistan. He said, “The point is that Russia and Pakistan probably have more in common with respect to the war in Afghanistan than the United States has with either — and this is a real turnaround from prior history.” For Russia, the ISIS factor in Afghanistan is really worrisome. Russia feels that, the growth of ISIS in Afghanistan is directly threatening the Central Asian States and Russia. 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. In this regard, Russian oil and gas companies will explore the possibilities of oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan and rest of South Asian region. Indeed, at regional and global level, Pakistan and Russia have many commonalities and convergence of interests. Therefore, let’s come out from the past legacy, where Pakistan was exploited and weakened internally. Pak-Russia cooperation is developing into many directions with wide spectrum and many opportunities.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.