By Sher Bano*
As a significant step in strengthening bilateral relation both Russia and Pakistan’s public security counsels had series of addresses on 1st December, 2021. After 2018, this was the first time that delegation level talks were held between Pakistan and Russia. Dr. Moeed Yusuf (National Security Adviser, Pakistan) and his Russian counterpart Mr. Nikolai Patrushev had in depth discussion on transnational and indigenous issues and also reviewed the diapason of Pakistan-Russia relations. The main agenda of the meeting was cooperation in the field of defence, energy, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, economy, cyber-security and information. Collaboration among special services, defence ministries and law enforcement agencies was also discussed.
During the meeting both sides paid special attention to the issue of medicine trafficking and cyber security. Possibility of trade and profitable cooperation among both the states was also discussed. A preliminary agreement was also signed between both the parties to build Pakistan stream gas pipeline that would be 1,100 km long known as ‘flagship strategic venture’ that will further strengthen the bilateral relations. The project worth 2.5 billion dollars will annually deliver 16 billion cubic meters natural gas from LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminals in Gwadar and Karachi with those located in Lahore. By the year 2023 the project is expected to be completed. The current situation in Afghanistan was also an important point of discussion among Mr. Patrushev and Mr.Yusuf, both agreed to support all the efforts in order to achieve lasting peace in South Asia. They also expressed their concerns regarding impending humanitarian crisis in the Afghanistan and urged the need for international community to intervene and take practical measures to curb the looming crisis. Furthermore, Pakistan’s focus was also in developing economic relations with Russia and Central Asian countries to improve economic integration and regional connectivity.
With the emergence of 5th generation warfare or hybrid warfare that India is waging against Pakistan, Pakistan’s security concerns have also changed. India is using different tools of cyber warfare, disinformation, and diplomatic isolation, financial and economic coercion etc. in order to destabilize Pakistan. Pakistan’s former Ambassador Munir Akram in 2018 wrote about techniques used by Russia to counter hybrid warfare. Russia used combination of cyber-attacks, narrative control, irregular forces, anonymous militia’s and diplomatic support etc. This new form of warfare is also becoming more sophisticated with new emerging technologies. Hence Russia being the architect of hybrid war can prove to be beneficial partner for Pakistan. Pakistan can acquire and learn new technologies such as tools for cyber-security and to further defend the hybrid attacks from India.
Both the states have also agreed to develop mutually beneficial relations in the military sphere during the JMCC (Russia-Pakistan Joint Military Consultative Committee) meetings held in September, 2021. Moscow and Islamabad military partnership is governed by 2014 defence cooperation agreement. Since both the states have signed this agreement the defence ties have steadily grown among the two. Different areas have been explored for the joint cooperation such as holding joint military exercises, military training, defence industrial cooperation and intelligence cooperation. Both sides need immediate implementation and effective follow up upon the decisions taken during JMCC meetings. Developing such a constructive military relation between Pakistan and Russia is a significant factor in maintaining regional stability in the changing regional dynamics. Both the state can also work collectively to control the deteriorating political situation in Afghanistan through inclusive political dialogue and create conditions under which the conflicting sides could reach a constructive solution. It will also allow them to build inclusive power structure through mutual agreement and ending the prevailing civil war.
As per the statement by Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Foreign Minister, Pakistan) during a meeting in Islamabad in April, 2021, in Pakistan there is a new approach and mindset regarding its relations with Russia. Both do not just have geographical proximity but Russia is also an important factor for stability at the regional level and also international level. They have been working collectively in the domain of counterterrorism and to curb extremism. Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Lavrov also promised to provide special military equipment to Pakistan to fight terrorism. Hence relationship between Russia and Pakistan has come long way since cold war hostility to strategic cooperation at the current stage and also hope for continued bilateral cooperation in various other fields in future.
*The writer is working as a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.