OneWorld is sharing Andrew Korybko’s responses to several questions sent to him by Adeela Jawad about the contemporary state and future prospects of Russia-Pakistan relations. She plans to incorporate his insight into a chapter that she’s writing on this topic for an international publication.
- What is your paradigm for understanding the importance of Russian-Pakistani relations in the current strategic environment?
Both countries are doing their utmost to adapt to the global systemic transition from unipolarity to multipolarity, and they each have strategic relations with China and shared interests in bolstering trans-continental connectivity. Their anti-terrorist concerns stemming from ISIS’ presence in Afghanistan were the impetus for them to work more closely together, after which they began to discuss other issues of interest such as the aforementioned trends.
- When we review history, It can be well assessed that there are many divergences and convergences of interests between Pakistan and Russia, so how you perceive their foreign relations from divergence to convergence considering how Pakistan-Russia ties have progressed during the last few years?
Bilateral relations at their best point in history but much more work remains to be done in order to make them truly strategic. Russia seems reluctant to take those steps due to India’s sensitivities, though it can be argued that this risks turning Moscow into New Delhi’s de-facto “junior partner” since it appears as though another state’s interests are taking precedence over its own. Russian-Pakistani ties aren’t aimed at any third party though India’s paranoid decision makers, strongly influenced by their newfound American ally’s zero-sum thinking, feel otherwise. Russia will have to resist their pressure and independently assert its objective national interests if Russian-Pakistani ties are to develop further. Thus far, some encouraging signs can be seen, but they still aren’t enough to make their relations strategic.
3. What are the key potentials that can boost this relations? Or, you can say, what is the key pragmatism behind their relationship which can play a catalyst role in developing these relations from their formative phase to the next level?
Russia should explore the potential for expanding commercial relations with Pakistan through two trans-continental trade corridors that I previously described as N-CPEC+ and W-CPEC+ in reference to them being the northern and western expansions of CPEC respectively. N-CPEC+, which can also be called the RuPak corridor, envisions the creation of a trade corridor through post-war Afghanistan while W-CPEC+ would run parallel to the stalled North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) via Iran and Azerbaijan. It’s arguably in Moscow’s best interests to pursue these proposals since they align with President Putin’s earlier expressed desire to expand Eurasian connectivity, but once again, Russia will have to resist Indian pressure if this is to happen.
- Can we say that there are more opportunities than challenges?
Absolutely, in fact, the only challenge that exists concerns India’s efforts to sabotage their relations. There aren’t any objectively existing obstacles to the two proposals that I put forth since they perfectly align with Russia’s publicly proclaimed grand strategic goals.
- How do you asses the influence of regional politics in shaping their relations with regard to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Afghan reconciliation efforts, and Indian interests?
No two countries that treat one another as equal partners would ever pressure the other to change their policies on issues where they diverge so long as their disagreements don’t threaten their national interests. On the topic of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, both countries support the four UNSC Resolutions on the matter which demand that Armenia withdraws its military forces from the universally recognized Azerbaijani territory that they’re illegally occupying, though Pakistan fully supports Azerbaijan’s legal right as enshrined by Article 51 of the UN Charter to forcefully expel the invaders, while Russia believes that this should be accomplished through purely political means. Regarding Afghanistan, Russia and Pakistan both support the peace process and have even cooperated real closely on this topic.
It’s the issue of India, however, where their interests diverge. Russia supports India’s annexation and subsequent bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir while Pakistan is adamantly against it. Nevertheless, that isn’t seen as an impediment to the improvement of bilateral relations by either side, but once again, it must be emphasized that Russia has to resist intense Indian pressure upon it if its rapidly developing ties with Pakistan are ever to become truly strategic. Regrettably, India condescendingly treats Russia as its “junior partner” by objecting to its closer ties with Pakistan, which shows that their relations are imbalanced since Moscow doesn’t put symmetrical pressure on New Delhi to distance itself from Washington despite the de-facto Indian-American alliance arguably being among the most destabilizing forces in contemporary Eurasian geopolitics.
Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.