Over the last few years Pakistan and Russia have realised that they share a number of concerns. Both have suffered from terrorism and need to cooperate in the fight against the menace. It suits both to have a peaceful, friendly and narcotics free Afghanistan. Having suffered from sanctions in the past, Pakistan is keen to diversify its sources of weapons supply. It also wants to expand trade and seek investment in energy and power generation. What has followed is a slow and cautious but determined attempt at re-alignment of ties.
Russia is a member of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) where Pakistan has an observer status and needs Russian support for full membership. Russia with its developed technological base helped Pakistan establish its first Steel Mill and is interested in its upgradation. Recently, Pakistan and Russia finalised an agreement under which Moscow will lend Islamabad $2 billion to lay a pipeline that will transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi to Lahore.
Moscow made the first post Cold war attempt improve ties with Pakistan in 2007 when Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov visited Islamabad for three days. Within the next few years this was to lead to high level military exchanges between the two countries. As Pakistan’s relations with the US hit the nadir in 2011, Gen Kayani visited Moscow. Two years later the Russian army chief visited Pakistan. Pakistan and Russia wrapped up their first strategic dialogue in August 2013, agreeing on an institutional framework for building closer relations. In April this year Pakistan and Russia agreed to enhance defence cooperation. Last week COAS Raheel Sharif made a three day visit to Russia. Nawaz Sharif is expected to travel to Moscow in the next few weeks for a multilateral conference.
Pakistan needs to realise that Russia has multifaceted and historic ties with India. Despite the Modi government’s leanings towards the US, India-Russia relations are too deep-rooted to undergo much change. Hopefully Russia too would help improve Pak-India relations.
Furthering a Fruitful Relationship