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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New endgame for Pakistan as Russia’s FM to visit after 10 years

The author discusses what Russian Foreign minister Sargi Lavarov's visit to Pakistan after ten years means as Russia tries to secure its position in the Afghan-Taliban peace deal. Pakistan should use this as an opportunity to enhance its bilateral relations with Russia through its strategic leverage on Afghanistan.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sargi Lavarov’s visit to Pakistan is happening after almost a decade and is hugely significant. He is accompanied by the experienced Afghan hand and Russia’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov.

Their visit is taking place against the backdrop of increasing Indian engagement with the US as Russia feels its core interest is being undermined by the Quad and Indo-Pacific.

Read more: The Quad: a desperate attempt by US to bully China?

Thus Moscow’s rising multi-frontal engagement with Pakistan is to secure its backyard in Afghanistan. It also wants to send a message to India–do not take old friendship for granted; “we still hyphenate you (India) with Pakistan.”

Last but not least, Moscow is looking forward to expanding energy links with Pakistan on the basis of behind the scene defense trade particularly in small arms, besides, greater interaction with two militaries and counter-terrorism.

Read more: Russia and Pakistan: A Balancing Act?

Purpose of the visit

Russian Foreign Minister will be arriving in Islamabad after his visit to Delhi which is merely focused on reassuring India that Moscow has not side-lined Delhi and any increasing bilateral with Pakistan is not at the cost of India but already, Russia is farther from India-a new fact of life in India and Russian ties Delhi has to live with.

Russia’s FM Lavrov’s visit to Pakistan is mainly but not exclusively focused to secure interest on the Afghan front: he will seek to use Islamabad’s leverage on the Afghan Taliban.

Read more: Russo-Taliban ties: Did the Russians really offer bounty for the Americans?

After the recent Troika+ meeting in Moscow, Russia is preparing for contingencies that what if the Ghani govt collapses; what if the Turkey process by the impending US fails to arrive at a consensus? Another purpose for the visit is to ensure a place on the table for any Afghan resolution going forward.

Accompanied by veteran Russian diplomat and Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Kabulov has long experience in Afghan affairs. He is of the firm belief that the Taliban have defeated the US and its Afghan proxy the Kabul government.

He thinks that the Taliban need to be politically accommodated to end the conflict though he is against the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and lastly the US troops will cut and dry. Thus without a comprehensive peace deal, the region’s security will be at stake.

Read more: Russia supports US plan for Taliban role in interim Afghan govt

An opportunity for Pakistan?

Since Islamabad enjoys significant leverage on the Taliban, Russia really wants to secure a guarantee through Pakistan that any post-Ghani dispensation is shared by the Taliban, they do not pose any threat to the soft underbelly of Russia ie Central Asia, and that Russia remains a player in West Asia like in the Middle East.

Pakistan needs to be very careful in nudging the Taliban to accept the ever-increasing demand of the US and other regional powers. Islamabad should welcome the Russian role in Afghanistan and appreciate its bid to isolate India’s spoiler role in Kabul.

This is an opportunity for Islamabad to further enhance its bilateral relations with Russia through its strategic leverage on Afghanistan.

Read more: Pakistan seeks closer ties with Russia, and has a real chance of success

India’s diminishing ties with Moscow can hugely benefit Pakistan. Since Russia is a close ally of Iran, Islamabad can also use its offices to prevent the destabilizing role of Iran in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Islamabad is back in the driving seat after the collapse of the Doha process but it needs not force the Taliban to accept unreasonable demands of the US for accommodating the continuous power grab of the Ghani government–a point which can further cement convergence with Russia.

Read more: National interests and geopolitical factors in Russia-Pakistan Relations

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Baluchistan, an ex-advisor to the Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.