Pak-Russia relations: certain aspects

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 27.01.16

A country’s relations with other countries predicate on the kind of age it is passing through.
The way Pakistan and Russia have infused warmth in their bilateral relations of late shows
that that there can only be temporary foes in the world. There is no permanence of enmity;
hostility is meant for dissolution. Nevertheless, the future of Pak-Russia bilateral relations is
contingent on the lessons learnt from the past.

There are three main reasons for the apparent thaw in Pak-Russia relations. The first
reason is that ideology (in terms of the way of life) has proved itself less of a weapon which
hits the target and more of a bullet which boomerangs on the dispatcher. Ideology is now
out to haunt Pakistan as an existential threat. The more Pakistan has been trying to
dispose of it, the more Pakistan is bled. Perhaps, Pakistan is grappling with the last
vestiges of ideology. On the other hand, Russia, the abridged version of the former Soviet
Union, has also suffered from the onslaught of its version of ideology that, directly or
indirectly, played a role in reducing it in size to today’s Russia. Nevertheless, in their
prospective improved bilateral relations, both the countries seem to be ready to refrain from
letting ideology delineate their relations, as compared to the past. Both have submitted to
the reality that the world has outpaced the dictates of ideology, which otherwise was an
idea that invited antagonisms in the immediate post-colonial world.

Both the countries also have submitted to the reality that in Afghanistan it was not the
victory of one ideology over the other but it was the victory of one technology over the
other. Die hard elements in both countries may still proclaim that it was important for them
to dispute (and test the strength of) ideology before abandoning it. However, it might be
that the definition of the “way of life” has escaped the confines of the word “ideology” and
has found a new abode: global. The ‘way of life’ has no longer remained local. In other
words, the way of life defined under any fixed parameters of time and space pales in
significance before the way of life defined in a flexible context. The post-1991 way of life
has a global reach, regardless of how people feel about it. This is the way of life that has
garnered the world’s consensus, including of those inhabiting Pakistan and Russia.

The second reason is that the inhabitants of both the countries have learnt to not let
economic realities of life be subordinate to any version of ideology. Economic realities open
a vista quite wide to traverse. Russia’s yearning, whether overt or covert, to reach the warm
waters of the Arabian Sea need not to be viewed through the colonial mindset of keeping
Russia at bay by instigating Afghanistan to act as a buffer state. The impression is still rife
that when the British failed to conquer Afghanistan, they justified their retreat to the
precincts of British India by declaring the withdrawal deliberate to pronounce Afghanistan a
buffer state. Nevertheless, neither is Pakistan a relic of colonialism that it must uphold the
colonial mindset nor is Afghanistan any more a buffer state. The realities on the ground
have changed. The Afghanistan of today needs a vibrant economy for the honourable
survival of its citizens instead of relying on the opium trade (or drug money) and earning
infamy. Certainly, economic realities are ruthless. They ensure that no country can remain
inaccessible and allow no country to be a bulwark. In the context of rebuilding, Afghanistan
needs Russia’s financial help. China’s breaking of its self-imposed seclusion must have
made Russia ape the same act.

While the European Union refuses to embrace Russia into its fold, Russia now seeks
recognition in Asia-Major. Despite several reforms, Russia is still lagging behind in the
realms of democracy and human rights, as compared to rest of Europe. The platform of the
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) has offered Russia another chance to
associate itself with the east. Russia understands that simple association is not enough
unless it yields tangible economic fruits. Joining hands with China at the SCO will help
Russia foster its ties with Pakistan. The SCO platform, though multilateral in nature, also
offers Pakistan a face-saving opening to justify its decision to approach Russia at the
bilateral level in the hope of some economic gains. On the other hand, Russia can pick up
the threads where it left. Russia can help Pakistan in the field of iron and steel industry.
Russian help in this sector may quickly catch Pakistan’s attention towards the benefits of
quick revival of bilateral relations with Russia.

The third reason is that Pakistan seems to have changed the way it sees the world.
Pakistan is getting more concerned regionally rather than globally. Pakistan vis-à-vis India
does not enjoy friendly relations with the US. Pakistan perceives that the US favours India in
the region at the expense of Pakistan, especially in the post-9/11 era. The US has not
helped Pakistan in the energy sector. Pakistan now hopes that China will help Pakistan
overcome its energy crisis. The Pakistan’s expectations from Russia are similar. Pakistan
does not mind Russia’s relations with India which is also now the member of the SCO. On
the other hand, Russia seems to be careful in offering Pakistan its help. Russia has
adopted the go-slow policy. The past must be discouraging Russia from making friendly
strides towards Pakistan. In the past, in Pakistan, Russia was seen as being pro-India and
anti-Pakistan. However, the Russia of today seems to be keen to deal with both Pakistan
and India on equal terms.

Pakistan and Russia need not to do anything special to befriend each other. They are
simply required to encourage people-to-people contact. Things will start moving in the right
direction.

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