Pak-Russia ties: Prospects and challenges
ON the other side, Pakistan is concerned about the growing American strategic and military partnership with India, which increased under the Trump Administration.
In April 2016, the Obama Administration myopically declined to grant $ 430 million to Pakistan for the purchase of eight F-16.
What is important to mention here is that Indian lobbies played the central role in inducing the American Congress to block the grant of the stipulated amount to Pakistan.
Since Pakistan has been engrossed in waging a long and expensive war against assorted terrorist and militant groups and is threatened by neighbouring India, the country direly needs advanced aircraft and timely modernization of its existing weaponry in order to make its security effective.
It is pertinent to note that Russia removed its arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014.
More importantly, the Kremlin also agreed to sell four MI-35 helicopters to Pakistan.
In the post arms embargo period, Pakistan can also purchase Sukhoi-35 fighter jets from Russia and seek Russian assistance to modernise its existing fighter aircraft.Both Pakistan and Russia are facing the threat of terrorism and militancy.
Terrorism is a major problem insidiously plaguing Pakistan with losses of nearly $ 150 billion and over 80,000 lives.
The emergence of Daesh in Afghanistan currently poses a severe threat to Pakistan’s tribal areas and the peripheries of Russia.
In this context, along with China, Pakistan and Russia have conducted a series of consultations on how to prevent the possible spillover effects of Daesh.
These states are also working with the Taliban regime in Kabul to inhibit the presence of terror outfits in Afghanistan.
Arguably, such an emerging cooperation is likely to prove effective in eliminating the militancy of Daesh from the region, especially from Afghanistan.
Pakistan shares SCO’s concerns regarding the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism.
Under the umbrella of the SCO, it would acquire comprehensive counter-terrorism and counter-militancy assistance from the Tashkent-based Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) to stamp out rampaging terrorism, bubbling militancy and disruptive low-intensity insurgency in restive Balochistan.
Moreover, coordinated intelligence sharing and joint operation between Pakistan and Russia will greatly help them clamp down the deadly Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) based in Afghanistan.
Pakistan can adopt a two-pronged approach by joining hands with the SCO to ruin drug cultivation in Afghanistan and bust drug cartels operating in the region.
With China and Russia, Pakistan may conduct a vigorous joint naval anti-narcotics drive in the Arabian Sea against the burgeoning drug smuggling.
Russia has played a significant role in foiling all short-sighted Indian moves to label Pakistan as terrorism.
At the BRICS summit held India in October 2016, Indian supremacist Prime Minster Narendra Modi called Pakistan the ‘mothership of terrorism’ that should be isolated as such.
But, while delivering his speech, Russian President Putin adroitly avoided using the word terrorism which signalled his outright rejection of Modi’s Pakistan-bashing.
Moreover, when Modi and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed Pakistan for sponsoring regional terrorism during the Heart of Asia conference in December 2016, the Russian representative sternly rejected Afghan and Indian accusations of Pakistan and termed these allegations unjustified and unfounded.
After watching American repeated failures to bring about reconciliation, stability and tranquillity in Afghanistan, Russia demonstrated its willingness to play a role in Afghan peace and security.
Moscow hosted the Afghan talks and helped bridge the gap between the Taliban and the US before the take-over of the Taliban.
As now Pakistan is a complete member of the SCO, it can persuade China and Russia to come forward with their technological know-how and fiscal resources to help Afghanistan benefit from its natural resources and play a bigger role in Afghan reconstruction.
Pakistan and Russia could face some hurdles during the course of improving bilateral relations.
India may use pressure tactics or strive to strengthen its ties with Russia to the level so that Moscow does not feel the need of an extra market for its arms sale.
Since America is highly apprehensive of Russian naval presence in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, the Biden Administration will use backstairs influence and pressure to stop Islamabad from jumping into the Russian bandwagon in the region.
Washington will capitalise on the International Monetary Funds (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) to prevent Pakistan from fostering its security and economic relations with Russia.
The Indo-American bloc could expedite its support to Pakistani-based terrorist and insurgent groups so that they will create instability and uncertainty in Pakistan.
It is not uncommon that whenever two rivals decide to bury the hatchet for friendly relations, they are likely to face some hurdles in their budding relations.
Both Pakistan and Russia should not let their historical legacy, divergent objectives and the designs of India and America create obstacles to the reset of bilateral relations.
The following points may be helpful in this regard: Both countries should arrange and facilitate wide-ranging discussion between members of civil, military and economic institutions.
Such interactions will build trust, promote transparency and help increase meaningful cooperation on a wide range of issues between the two countries.
Both countries should take the Taliban into confidence and work with Kabul to inhibit the growth of Daesh in Afghanistan.
This will help Pakistan and Russia to play an effectual role in the rebuilding process in Afghanistan.
Pakistan should provide incentives to Russia so that Russian companies display readiness in working to improve Pakistan’s energy sector, accelerate its industrialisation process, build infrastructure and improve agricultural productivity.
Pakistan should establish a long-term strategic partnership with Russia.Russian expertise in the field of nuclear technology will be of paramount importance for Pakistan to increase the capacity of its production of nuclear energy for civilian use.
Lastly, Pakistan should assure Russia that its partnership with Uncle Sam will not derail its relations with Russia in future.
—The writer is former senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and now an editor and commentator based in Karachi.