By Dr. Musarat Amin, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, January 27, 2014
Friendship with Russia would certainly diminish Pakistan’s dependency on the US, as over the course of six decades the latter has proved to be an unreliable ally. Russia can help Pakistan in areas of trade, heavy industry and infrastructural development. Secondly, Pakistan can get a smooth access to the Central Asian states, as Russia still dominates the whole region. Russia can be a potential partner for Pakistan but there is an urgent need to realize its significance in international politics and open up doors of friendship and cooperation with it
Gone are the days when states developed their relations on the basis of ideologies; today they pursue their interests irrespective of ideologies and watch them carefully. Ideology factor in international relations faded away with the demise of USSR. The post-cold war era reorientated national interest in terms of common gains. Ideology factor had lost its worth even during the cold war; Sino-US rapprochement (1979) and Indo-USSR relations are the glaring example that the states with opposing ideologies embraced each other.
Pakistan chose capitalist ideology and jumped the US bandwagon completely ignoring the USSR. This could be a plausible excuse that because of Pakistan’s security pacts (SEATO, CENTO) against communism it did not level ties with the USSR. Even in the post-cold war era Pakistan did not develop friendly ties with Russia which has certainly been the flawed foreign policy of Pakistan. Russia, otherwise, could prove a faithful ally in the post-cold war era when America left Pakistan in a lurch to deal with all the mess of post-Afghan-Soviet war. Even American sanctions under Pressler Amendment (1990) could not make Pakistan to think of Russia. Pakistan neither had any territorial dispute nor ideological clash with Russia. Ignoring Russia has been and is a major foreign policy flaw which has not been addressed yet.
Without proper engagement with Pakistan, Russia offered mega project of Pakistan steel mills and technical assistance in energy, infrastructure and agriculture. The main reason to shy away from USSR was Indo-USSR strategic relationship. Indo-USSR treaty of friendship (1971) and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1979) were the main impediments in USSR-Pakistan relations.
Early post-cold war era was an ordeal for Pakistan to meet internal and external challenges. Power vacuum because of American withdrawal juddered Pakistan economically and politically. Secondly, fragile democratic regimes of Pakistan throughout 90s debilitated country and Pakistan needed a reliable global power but unfortunately, no great power could come to rescue dwindling economy and internal disorder of Pakistan. A weak and low-powered Pakistan was once again pushed into American led war against terrorism. Pakistan has got nothing in exchange for losing a lot (economically and politically).US still has precarious relationship with Pakistan and Pakistan has not cemented diplomatic engagements with Russia. Russia is back to power-circle again because of its hefty economy, veto-power, and heavy industry. Pakistan urgently needs reinvigoration of bilateral strategic, economic and diplomatic relations with Russia. The reason is that, if China can develop its good relations and promote economic trade with India despite having border issues, then why not Pakistan develops its bilateral relations with Russia though both have neither issue of ideology nor territorial dispute.
American withdrawal from Afghanistan would create power vacuum which would have grave implications for Pakistan and other neighboring states. If Afghanistan was the source of bitterness between both the states in 1980s, it could now be the source of convergence of interest between them. In August 2013, the meeting between General Kayani (R) with his Russian counterpart was a deliberation on the future situation of Afghanistan in which the Russian General showed great interest to bring stability in Afghanistan and enhance cooperation with Pakistan.
I think this should be the top priority of Pakistan because we suffered a lot during this war on terror so if we can get a possible great help from Russia we shouldn’t lose this opportunity. Efforts should be done by both the countries to redefine their relations in the context of new regional and global milieu. Terrorism is a plague which is eating away Pakistani society and recent terrorist attacks in Russia leave both the victims to think over their foreign policies and cooperate in the areas of counter-terrorism and regional peace.
Friendship with Russia would certainly diminish Pakistan’s dependency on the US, as over the course of six decades the latter has proved to be an unreliable ally. Russia can help Pakistan in areas of trade, heavy industry and infrastructural development. Secondly, Pakistan can get a smooth access to the Central Asian states, as Russia still dominates the whole region. Russia can be a potential partner for Pakistan but there is an urgent need to realize its significance in international politics and open up doors of friendship and cooperation with it.
*Dr. Musarat Amin is Assistant Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad.*