Islamabad—Russia supports strategic stability in South Asia and is working to reduce the chances of conflict in the region, says a Russian scholar. “Russia is interested in Strategic Stability and avoiding crisis in the region, but cannot ensure it as it is for the countries here to achieve it,” said Petr Topychkanov, who is associated with the Non-Proliferation Program of Carnegie Moscow Center.
He was delivering a lecture on ‘Non-Proliferation and Strategic Stability in South Asia: A Russian Perspective’ at Strategic Vision Institute – an Islamabad based think tank specializing in nuclear issues. Topychkanov said that India has been Russia’s long time strategic partner and Moscow intends to keep that relationship, but is simultaneously developing ties with Pakistan.
He said that while Russia cooperated with India in the development of Brahmos missile and helped it in achieving sea based second strike capability by first providing nuclear fuelled Chakra submarine and then assisting with Arihant, and is currently in talks over S-400 air defense systems and lease of a higher category of submarine; it is at the same time providing Mi-35M helicopters in addition to a deal for provision of JF-17 engines.
Russia, he maintained, has an important influence on the strategic balance in the region. Moscow’s policy of engagement in South Asia, he contended, was to tell both Pakistan and India that it should not be seen as an ally of one country, rather it should be taken as being interested in good relations and security and stability of both. He recalled that Russian Navy had participated in exercises with Pakistan Navy and ground forces drills were being planned.
Topychkanov believed that this balancing act of Moscow vis-à-vis ties with both Delhi and Islamabad, which he described as “playing two different tracks at the same time”, would not be very helpful for Russia in the longer run. He also called on Moscow to be more transparent in relations with India and Pakistan and avoid throwing surprises.
Mentioning the planks of Russian engagement in South Asia, he said, one was the diplomatic move for supporting entry of India and Pakistan into Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), while the other were simultaneous development of military cooperation with both and working with them on non-proliferation issues. President SVI Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema expressed concern over the deteriorating strategic balance in the region because of India’s acquisition of conventional and nuclear weapons. Dr Cheema said such developments seriously impact Pakistan’s interests.