Will A Reset Be Possible In Russia-Pakistan Relationship? – OpEd


At the outset, one fact regarding US approach towards its allies needs elucidation. USA does not like if any of its important allies abandons it and joins its foes. While it is engaged in double speaks and double standards, USA does not allow that privilege to its allies and the super power wants from them total commitment.

For years since the onset of Cold War, USA has used Pakistan as its important ally in South Asia to contain India, a close military ally of Russia. Washington exploited maximum from Pakistan that feels vulnerable to Indian threat practices by misusing Pakistan as its slave or servant knowing fully well the latter’s problems with its neighbor India. Pakistan on its own felt a great relive in working for USA and Europe for service charges.

So, USA would not let a new Russo—Pakistani relationship taking shape that would upset US strategy for Asia. In earlier occasions when Russia moved forward to forge economic relations with Pakistan, USA intervened to disrupt the emerging relationship. The veto position that both the super powers hold is responsible for making such mutual ‘adjustments’.

As USA is losing its dominant importance in West Asia, a new friendship appears to be blossoming between Pakistan and Russia very recently. Indeed a gradual military relationship is emerging between them as the Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel General Israkov Yuryevich was hosted by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt on a visit to North and South Waziristan just a few days ago.

This is an interesting and unusual development. Reports also suggest that the military relations between the countries are growing rapidly but we cannot be so forward as to call it an alliance yet.

Since the Cold War Pakistan has been an ally of USA while India was very close to Russia, striking profitable economic deals with the erstwhile Communist regime in Moscow.

Russian Navy’s largest anti-submarine warfare ship Severmorsk arrived in Pakistan for participation in the Aman 2017 international naval exercises in February 2017. While Pakistan also confirmed purchase of Mi-35 ground attack helicopters in 2015

But is a blooming military relationship enough to draw any conclusions too soon about the relations between the two states, especially given the complicated history?


The reset of foreign policy being worked out by Russia for South Asia has only military reasons and Moscow by such moves gets what it wants from New Delhi.

In fact, Russia which being a close military ally, does not have any concrete military deals with Pakistan and whenever it sees the need to make India buy Russian weapons, Russia announces to have established close military ties with Pakistan- a deliberate move to force India to quickly place orders for terror goods and technology.

When India knew that Russia once again is trying with its old trick for alliance with Pakistan only in order to force New Delhi to place bulk orders for terror goods from Moscow, Indian defence minster Nirmala Sitharaman has been flown to Moscow with a massive military orders for latest missile systems, among other needs. The 39,000 crore rupee deal (390 billion rupees, $6.1 billion) is for five S-400 systems has been struck recently.

All the five S-400 systems, which can even take on medium-range ballistic missiles, apart from cruise missiles, will be delivered in 54 months. The force-multiplier will change the dynamics of air defence in the region,” an unnamed Indian defence ministry source said. India is focused on long-range interceptors. India may want to deploy the S-400 to counter threats from Pakistan’s short-range Nasr (Hatf-IX) nuclear missiles.

India is the world’s largest defence importer and has signed several big-ticket defense deals since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014. The majority of the defense deals are part of Modi’s ‘Make In India’ strategy to include significant transfer of technology in defense acquisition, encouraging foreign investment in joint ventures to produce military hardware in India. Some deals have stumbled recently over the Make in India and transfer of technology conditions, including an on-again off-again purchase of Spike ATGMs from Israel.

The ongoing tug-of-war between the USA and Russia in the region may be a reason for Russia’s developing interest in Pakistan. Pakistani history with Afghanistan and the Taliban and its friendship with China are the two reasons for this interest.

Russia reminds not to forget that there was a time when there was a Quadrilateral Coordination Group consisting of China, Pakistan, USA and Afghanistan to discuss reconciliation in Afghanistan in 2016. This threatened Russia and it entered into separate talks with China and Pakistan regarding Afghanistan.

The anti-Pakistani rhetoric and criticism by USA has force Pakistan to loo for Russian support to face the current US strategy. Pakistan has been on a fast track with China in improving economic ties on large scale, making USA annoyed with Pakistan. Apparently, all angry outbursts nad cancellations of aid etc are meant essentially to force Pakistan to shed China as USA is pursuing its Asia Pivot targeting China.

Pakistan’s proximity and ties with Afghanistan is another strong reason why Russia wants to court Islamabad. Russia wants to bring Afghanistan, which is now under US-India control, under its influence as much as the USA does, and Pakistan has prior experience dealing with Afghan Taliban.

Moreover, Russia is motivated by fears of a growing presence of Islamic State militants in neighboring Afghanistan and has warmed up to Pakistan as well as to Taliban insurgents battling the upstart Islamic State group affiliate known as Khorasan Province, the ancient name of an area that once included parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.
In the latest move to strengthen ties, Russia recently named an honorary consul to Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, which borders Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, where IS has established its headquarters. The ISIS is also present in northern Afghanistan’s border regions with Central Asia, causing further consternation in Moscow.

Russia’s honorary consul, Mohammad Arsallah Khan, who belongs to a powerful business family in Pakistan’s northwest, said economic development is the best weapon against extremism. “when you can give people a way of earning a living, they will turn away from terrorism, away from extremism.” The appointment reflects a stark turnaround in Pakistan’s historical relationship with Russia. He said would promote increased commerce with Pakistan’s neighbors, including Russia, which currently accounts for barely $500 million in trade.

Recently, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Washington of failing to go after the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. In response, Washington’s senior diplomat for South Asia, Alice Wells, accused Russia of ignoring anti-IS offensives launched by US and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan, while at the same time pursuing them in new havens, particularly in northern Afghanistan. Wells suggested Russia “should unequivocally support the Afghan government” if it wants to end the conflict in Afghanistan, a thinly veiled reference to allegations of Russian support for the Taliban.

For some, Russia’s cozying up to Pakistan is a bit of a “poke in the eye” to the USA, still embroiled in the Afghan conflict that is now in its 17th year and is Washington’s longest war, costing more than $122 billion, according to its own special Inspector General on Afghan Reconstruction.

American mischief

Like every other set of bilateral ties, US-Pakistan ties are determined and regulated by USA and Islamabad has to just obey the masters in Washington and Tel Aviv. That is the only choice available to Pakistan which must bear the brunt of US coercive diplomacy.

Years of coercive diplomacy has made Pakistan a puppet regime serving the US interests.

Washington recently persuaded member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan back on the “grey list” of nations with inadequate terrorist financing or money laundering controls. Pakistan was on the list for three years, until 2015.

Obviously, abrupt end of ties and aid flow into Islamabad as service charges has upset the plans of policy makers in Islamabad. Over dependence has made Pakistan a beggar state.

The diplomatic setback has sparked anger in Islamabad against the US, which championed the motion against Pakistan at the FATF meeting in Paris. It represented another blow to the worsening relationship between the uneasy allies, who have long differed on how to combat militants waging war in Afghanistan. It has also heightened concerns that Pakistan is becoming internationally isolated, and that its economy could suffer if global banking intuitions cut links with the nuclear-armed nation, or otherwise increase the cost of doing business with Pakistan.

However, adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Finance Miftah Ismail has brushed off concerns that economic growth will suffer because of the country’s re-inclusion on a terrorist financing watch-list, and lashed out at the United States for seeking to “embarrass” his country.

USA launches aid and promotes terror networks to sit its foreign policy needs. Ismail, who led Pakistan’s negotiations in Paris, told the media that Washington did not seem genuinely eager to see Pakistan boost its terrorist financing regulations and was instead bent on humiliating the country. “If the Americans were interested in working with us and improving our CTF (counter-terrorist financing) regulations, they would have taken the offer “But their idea was just to embarrass Pakistan.”

Ismail ruled out Pakistan’s retaliation against Washington over the FATF listing. He said the country would keep working to improve its CTF capabilities and win the confidence of Britain, Germany and France, who co-sponsored the US motion in Paris.

Pakistan hoped to be removed from the grey list soon, when it would be officially placed on the watch list, Ismail added. The adviser said he did not foresee the FATF decision acting as a brake on Pakistan’s economy, which, with growth above five per cent, is expanding at its fastest pace in a decade.

Ismail said that he had urged the USA to allow Pakistan until June to fix any outstanding CTF issues and ceded ground in negotiations to strike a deal, but the USA is determined to see Pakistan suffer. Pakis¬tan’s law-enforcement short¬¬comings were often confused for lack of desire, especially at provincial level, where police officers are poorly trained when it comes to terrorist financing legislation.

Soviet era policy

Russian policy for India and Pakistan is rooted the Soviet era policy.
The main reason why Pakistan sought friendship with the USA and joined the American camp during the Cold War was economic and technical assistance. Fast growing Indo-Russia ties speeded up Islamabad’s need to seek US cooperation and USA used Pakistan for its global ambitions especially in Arab world. That the Pakistani government and policymakers cloaked the rationale for this assistance in ideological terms is not surprising.

In order to attack the erstwhile Soviet Union, USA had generated terror outfits inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan denies organised camps exist now on its territory, though it says insurgents move throughout the country among the Afghan refugee population of 1.5 million. Pakistan also assails Afghanistan for allowing anti-Pakistan militants to have territory from which they plot and carry out attacks against Pakistan.

World War II and subsequent Cold war forced entire Islamic world to support and promote US interests. The USA frightened entire Islamic world with the Soviet “Communist invasion” and genocides of Muslims. But that is only a mischief but USA is cause of al problems. A Russian resident in Pakistan stated that contrary to Pakistan’s fears, the Soviet government “never had any intentions to walk into Pakistan”. Even when the Soviet Union had a military presence in Afghanistan Pakistan remained beyond Pakistani strategic plans.

Pakistan worked for USA quite blindly, willingly executing everything that USA demands that India would reject. The narrative taught in Pakistan starts with the assumption that the Soviet Union was anti-Pakistan right from Pakistan’s creation. Such was the Pakistani aversion to the Soviets that the process to set up diplomatic relations took over seven months even though Zafrullah Khan, Pakistan’s foreign minister, and Andrei Gromyko, Soviet deputy foreign minister, met on the subject of diplomatic relations in April 1948.

While Russia was aiming at bringing all third world nations under it ageist USA, Pakistan saw relations with the Soviet Union from the prism of relations with India just as these days it sees ties with the USA.

Pakistan’s leaders were keen to have the USA on their side and actively sought an invitation from Washington. In May 1949 Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announced his plans to visit the USA in October 1950. Pakistanis were disappointed that Nehru was invited to Moscow before their prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan.

Moscow, like Washington, played geopolitics. Soon thereafter it was announced that Liaquat would visit Moscow, becoming the first Commonwealth head of government to visit the Soviet Union. The Moscow visit never materialized and instead in December 1949 it was announced that the prime minister would visit the USA in May 1950.

Saudi Arabia influenced Pakistani decisions which in turn are controlled by the USA. The real reason why the USA was chosen over Soviet Union became apparent in a background paper written by the Study Group of Pakistan Institute of International Affairs in 1956: “There are important divergences of outlook between Pakistan, with its Islamic background, and the Soviet Union with its background of Marxism which is atheistic … Pakistan had noticed the subservience which was forced upon the allies of the Soviet Union … Furthermore, there was the question whether Russia could supply the aid, both material and technical, which Pakistan so urgently needed.”

Occupation of Afghanistan

USA was focused on removing Soviet military from Afghanistan and used Pakistan for that purpose.

While militarily intervening in Afghanistan for various reasons, Soviet strategists never contemplated invading Pakistan. They had a strategic relationship with India and did not wish to threaten a close military and economic ally by extending their military presence to India’s borders.

Pakistan saw relations with the Soviet Union from the prism of relations with India just as these days it sees ties with the US. In May 1949 Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru announced his plans to visit the USA in October 1950. Pakistan’s leaders were keen to have the USA on their side and actively sought an invitation from Washington. They were disappointed that Nehru was invited before their prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan.

Soon thereafter it was announced that Liaquat would visit Moscow, becoming the first Commonwealth head of government to visit the Soviet Union. The Moscow visit never materialized and instead in December 1949 it was announced that the prime minister would visit the USA in May 1950.

Although Pakistan was not mentioned in the final communique that followed the recent Financial Action Task Force on terror funding, a motion by Washington to have Pakistan put on a global watch list prompted the task force to demand that Islamabad prove it is doing enough to curb terror financing by the time they meet again in June.

Most analysts said the deadline was an indication that even its deep friendship with China was not enough to counter US pressure. China, like USA, is not a charity and does not provide assistance on demand; it only provides support — including key allies like Pakistan — when it serves its interests. Additionally, the extent of Russian support for Pakistan to this point is unclear.”

Out of all the declassified Soviet archives related to the military intervention in Afghanistan there are a few which do mention Pakistan. Those that do, mainly talk about the need for talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan. None mention the “push towards warm waters” cited by Gen Ziaul Haq as the explanation of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and as justification for the US-backed jihad that haunts Pakistan to this day. Over that burden, USA has now imposed on Pakistan further hardships.

Documentation from December 1979 highlights disagreement between Soviet military and civilian leaders on the decision to intervene militarily in Afghanistan. In 1979 it was proposed that in exchange for Afghanistan’s support for Pakistan’s entry into the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), Pakistan would ban political activities of Afghan refugees and refrain from sending armed groups into Afghanistan.

In July 1980 President Zia put forth a proposal for holding talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran under the aegis of the Soviet Union. The Soviets reveal their suspicion of the “seriousness” of US and Zia’s intentions. Yet they agreed to go ahead with the proposal and offered themselves as mediators. The talks never took place because of Soviet and Afghan refusal to accept Pakistan’s demands that President Babrak Kamal be replaced and also because Iran backed out from these talks as well.

After decades of assumptions and speculations, now there is access to the Soviet archives to find definitive information on Soviet intentions towards Pakistan. But Pakistanis do not delve into these archives because rather than searching for the truth, they prefer to live in a make-believe world.

Even when the Soviet Union had a military presence in Afghanistan, its neighbor Pakistan remained beyond Russian strategic plans. The reason for such an approach is that historically we had partnership relations with India”.

Documentation from December 1979 highlights disagreement between Soviet military and civilian leaders on the decision to intervene militarily in Afghanistan.

In July 1980 Zia put forth a proposal for holding talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran under the aegis of the Soviet Union. The talks never took place because of Soviet and Afghan refusal to accept Pakistan’s demands that President Babrak Kamal be replaced and also because Iran backed out from these talks as well. The narrative taught in Pakistan starts with the assumption that the Soviet Union was anti-Pakistan right from Pakistan’s creation, just as the media is now busy trying to convince us that the United States is out to destroy the destabilized Pakistan.

Alliance of convenience

For Americans any alliance with another country, including Great Britain, is act of convenience and once the US purpose is solved, the alliance is canceled or kept in cold.

After many decades of close operations, USA and Pakistan have now realized that their alliance has been fragile. Anti-Islamic causes of the West used a weak Pakistan on payment basis to target Islam and Muslims but since the alliance is not genuine, now the USA has, after killing thousands of Muslims in Pakistan and Af-Pak, insulted and warned it of stepping up its strategic partnership with India.
Now Pakistan is affected in all respects.

In the 1980s, Pakistan and the USA were united against Russia as the Soviet Union sent 150,000 soldiers into Afghanistan to prop up its communist ally in the Afghan capital, Kabul. At the time, Pakistan, with US backing, used Peshawar as a staging arena to deploy Islamic insurgents mujahedeen — or as President Ronald Reagan often called them, “freedom fighters” — to wage war on Russia. After 10 years of occupation, Russia failed to win the war and on February 15, 1989, left Afghanistan in a negotiated exit. Now USA has cross those Russian years and continues to occupy the lands of brave Afghans.

Still, Russia worries about the US presence in Afghanistan. Russia is concerned about the long-term presence of the USA and its allies in Afghanistan and Syria, and therefore it’s in Russia’s long-term interests to have an inside view of the situation in Afghanistan fo which Pakistan provides the viewing platform.

Russian relations with Pakistan aim to solve two problems for Moscow. First, to blunt the threat of IS from Afghanistan. Second, to undermine US influence, 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.”

In Pakistan Brig Saad reminded viewers about the proxy war the two nations were fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He said the relationship only started to mend in 2014 when Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu visited Pakistan in November 2014 “and signed a defence cooperation contract with us.” He elaborated on the growing military cooperation between the two countries, saying, “Last year’s military exercise is an example of the countries’ conjoined interests, apart from that the naval forces of both countries participated in ‘Arabian Monsoon’ exercises in 2014 and again in 2015.

Brig Saad was referring to September 2016, when around 200 military personnel of both countries participated in the drills. The special operations drills codenamed ‘Druzhbha-2016’ — a Russian word meaning “friendship” — saw Russian troops and Pakistani Special Forces working in close cooperation.

Close ties between Pakistan and China seem to have inspired Moscow to trust Pakistan for economic ties. An alliance between Pakistan and Russia would not be without China, a mutual friend. The prospect of an alliance between Pakistan and Russia will be possible with their mutual friend — China playing a major role in their relationship. In fact, Turkey too is interested in such an alliance and President Erdogan has shown his willingness in the matter.

So this will be a four-way alliance between China, Turkey, Russia and Pakistan and there is a lot of restlessness in the US regarding this prospective alliance and we cannot rule the US factor out as they are sitting in Afghanistan right now,” Brig Saad cautioned, but also said, “The game is on.”

Off and on, Russia has tried to forge a stable alliance with Pakistan- a strategic partner of USA for years but could not go ahead with partnership presumably due to stern objections from USA and Israel.

Is USA still crucial to Pakistan?

First, for an ordinary third world country and the perpetual target of India USA has been the real strength. And for this reason alone, USA bullies, insults and threatens with money cuts – just like Israel does with Palestine. Now USA also joined India to threaten Islamabad.

Second, while during the Soviet era a sense of mutual aversion kept these ideologically opposed nations, in the modern era, USA and India do not let them improve the ties better.

Moreover, there is no real interest on both sides to forge better economic relations.

Though Russia is one of close neighbours of Pakistan and could be an important economic partner too, in real terms nothing tangible takes place.

USA and India are the prime culprits in getting Islamic Pakistan a destabilized one. Pakistan’s dependence diplomacy has not stood well as the USA could kick it the way it wants. Generally America uses certain strategically important nations like Pakistan on payment basis. USA does not waste its money on other nations without benefits. For each dollar it gets from USA Pakistan serves the US interests not only in the region but in Arab world and other regions as well.

As many Pakistanis want US dollars for their services to US plans, USA still wants misuse them; Even while criticizing Pakistan, USA is keen to use Pakistani military to kill Pakistanis themselves and uses its military aid to force Pakistani military to target Muslims. The linchpin in Washington’s Afghan strategy is to put pressure on Pakistan to close safe havens used by Taliban fighters, most notably the Haqqani network, blamed for the more brazen and deadly attacks on Kabul.

While not pleased with Pakistan’s support for the Afghan resistance movement and while often labeling Pakistan an American or western stooge, at no time and in no correspondence is there evidence that the Soviet Union planned an invasion of Pakistan.

For Pakistan, despite closer ties with Russia and a heavily invested China, even a bad relationship with the USA is better than no relationship at all because USA can then harm Pakistan more along with its new strategic partner India. Pakistan losing the USA as a strategic partner maybe due to Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy, and ending up having to rely solely on China, is not a foreign policy success story for Pakistan — it’s a major foreign policy failure.

As Pakistan navigates its troubled relationship with the USA and scrambles to avoid being blacklisted for “not taking action on some of the entities and individuals designated as terrorists by the UN”, regional alliances are shifting — and analysts ponder whether a cozier relationship with countries like Russia will complicate efforts to move toward peace in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s relationship with the USA has been troubled in recent years, even in its current weakened state, is still far more important in economic, diplomatic and security terms for Pakistan than its relationship with Russia.

Pakistanis need to examine the Soviet archives and need to review entire unreal narrative of history.

Russia is one of our close neighbours and could be an important  economic partner.

As USA trying to abandon it after using it to advance its foreign policy goals, now Pakistan stands at a crossroads not know how to reset its foreign policy.

Pakistanis need to review our entire unreal narrative of history. They must know where we deceived ourselves to avoid being deceived again.
The answer to the question if a reset possible in Russia-Pakistan relationship remains inconclusive

Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

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