Russian Foreign Minister visited Pakistan last week after almost a decade. According to the top national media outlets, Mr. Sergey Lavrov brought a message from his President Vladimir Putin for the Pakistani leadership.
According to Tribune, a national media outlet, the message was an opportunity for new cooperation between the two countries. The Russian PM was quoted saying, “I came with a message from my president who tells Pakistan we are open for any cooperation, whatever Pakistan needs Russia is ready for it.”
The official who requested to remain anonymous worded the offer as, “a blank cheque”. Reportedly, the Russian president offered cooperation in gas pipelines, corridors, defense, among many other areas the country needs cooperation in.
Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Asia Program, which is a US-based platform on policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific, took to Twitter to say that he is “skeptical about Putin’s alleged sentiments.” He said that it is not an unconditional support offer.
I said last week that Pakistan-Russia relations are on the ascent, but I'm skeptical about Putin's alleged sentiments. It's a relationship w/forward movement in key spaces (CT, energy, Afghanistan). But Russia pledging unconditional support? Not so sure. https://t.co/H0pJYqrXp8— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) April 12, 2021
On Wednesday last week, Russia said that the country is ready to supply, “special military equipment” and conduct joint drills on the mountains and at the sea. In his recent visit, the Foreign Minister of Russia met with the top civil-military leadership of the country including PM Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
This development comes at a time when the US is leaning more and more towards New Delhi as a strategic counterbalance to China’s rise as a regional hegemon.
Speaking at a news conference while in Pakistan, the Russian foreign minister, who visited India before arriving in Pakistan said, “We are categorically against the new division lines. Instead, we promote the preservation of those structures that have been here, including the key role of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations].”
According to analysts, this was a reference to the recent “Quad” exercise between the US, India, Japan, and Australia, which shows a clear diversion of India’s conventional strategic partnership with Russia.
The tensions can also be interpreted from the fact that during his two-day visit to India, Mr. Lavrov didn’t meet Indian Prime Minister Modi.
On the other hand, Pakistan and Russia both are working on a $2 billion North-South pipeline, the agreement to which was penned down in 2015.
Modern Diplomacy, an EU-based news agency writes, “…Russia is interested in Pakistan by its strategic location being very next to Afghanistan and Central Asian states.”
The article adds, “Pak-Russia relationship can impede India from getting the close United States. Indian tendency toward Israel and United States for advance weapons and technology encourages Russia to look for new markets for her arms sale.”
The relations kicked off in 2012 when then-president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari had visited Russia in 2011 and Army Chief visited Moscow during 2012. There were reciprocal visits continued by ministers and high-level officials of both countries. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pakistan in 2014 for the first time in the last 45 years.
It must be remembered that Russia-Ukraine tensions are on the rise right now, leading to sanctions being discussed in the West, however, Russia is leaning towards China as an ally at this time in different areas of the economy including energy.
“For us, China is a true strategic partner and like-minded friend. Our cooperation in the international arena will have a stabilizing effect on the global and regional situation,” Lavrov told Chinese Media on the 22nd of March.
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Just a day later, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “The more unstable the world is, the more China and Russia need to advance our cooperation.”
It remains to be seen how Russia proceeds with China and Pakistan, and if it stays true to its long-term partner India, how will Russia manage to maintain the partnership.