Zeeshan Hayat |
Despite the mixed history between Pakistan and Russia, the desire for a close relationship was always there and the emerging multipolar world is presenting an opportunity to start a new chapter in what could be a strong and important relationship. Recent engagements at the political, diplomatic and military levels are gradually bringing the two countries together.
This relationship can not only be beneficial for the two countries but is also important for peace and stability in both Eurasia and South Asia, ultimately leading to regional economic integration.
There is a huge untapped potential for bilateral cooperation in different sectors, such as the economy, trade, energy, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, regional strategic stability and defense. However, historical legacy, Indian relations with Russia and the U.S. role may be some of the hurdles in this emerging relationship. Therefore, strong political will, shared interests, and a diversified foreign policy approach is needed, on either side, to overcome these challenges.
The perks of the Entente
This relationship can not only be beneficial for the two countries but is also important for peace and stability in both Eurasia and South Asia, ultimately leading to regional economic integration. China’s ‘One Belt One Road initiative’ and ‘Eurasian Economic Union’ are important initiatives for regional integration and the recent expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization can also be helpful in regional integration and connectivity. However, these regional integrations can only yield fruits if there is regional stability.
There are a number of factors affecting regional stability, such as terrorism, conventional military asymmetries, unstable Afghanistan and discrimination within the international political order. Both Russia and Pakistan have a shared interest in collectively addressing some of these important challenges, including countering terrorism, drug trade and bringing stability in Afghanistan.
Russia’s main concern regarding Afghanistan is the spillover of terrorism and drug trafficking, while on the other hand, stability in Pakistan is dependent upon peace and stability in Afghanistan. Therefore, both countries need to work together to eliminate these common threats from Afghanistan. Furthermore, to achieve this objective, it is important that regional countries must not allow Afghanistan to be used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks in the neighboring countries. An attempt by states to destabilize Pakistan through Afghanistan is publicly acknowledged by the world leaders.
The volatility of Pakistan-India relations is another factor creating hurdles toward achieving regional stability. India’s regional and global aims are indirectly creating security dilemmas for Pakistan, which compels it to take counter measures – albeit reluctantly. Indo-U.S. strategic relation is a huge factor in creating this security dilemma for Pakistan. This partnership is not only improving India’s technological and industrial capacity but also its military capabilities. There is an opinion that this strategic relationship will make India a counter-weight to an emerging China. If this theory is true, then it has serious implications for regional peace and stability. It will not only start an arms race in the region but pull the region into further instability.
Improvement in Russia-Pakistan relations can also be helpful in stabilizing India-Pakistan relations because of Russia’s good relations with India, ultimately leading to regional stability.
Furthermore, there is no denying the fact that this Indo-U.S. strategic relationship can not only start a competition between India and U.S. on one side and Pakistan-Russia and China on the other side but will be inimical for Russia-India, China-U.S. and Russia-U.S. bilateral relationships as well.
Improvement in Russia-Pakistan relations can also be helpful in stabilizing India-Pakistan relations because of Russia’s good relations with India, ultimately leading to regional stability. Furthermore, there is a need to convert current political, diplomatic and military engagements between Pakistan and Russia into even more mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship. Adoption of a lasting and coherent public diplomacy is very important for enhancing people-to-people contact in the field of education, science, trade, culture, tourism, and sports. There should be a formalization of the institutional relationship between Russia and Pakistan and increase in the media linkages by introducing segments from the partner state’s industry – news programs, films, television, and art exhibitions etc. Pakistan and Russia must also cooperate at multilateral and diplomatic forums for strengthening bilateral and regional cooperation on common concerns.
Russia-Pakistan cooperation in addressing different regional issues, like instability, terrorism, and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, will be helpful in achieving regional stability.
Furthermore, unlike the U.S. which is pursuing a discriminatory approach towards the region through building India as a counter-weight to China and supporting India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership, Russia could play an important balancing role by supporting Pakistani and Indian NSG cases simultaneously because it has a direct stake in regional peace and stability.
Russia-Pakistan cooperation in addressing different regional issues, like instability, terrorism, and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, will be helpful in achieving regional stability. Furthermore, this regional stability can then help the countries in exploiting the regional economic potential and in implementing different regional economic projects.
Zeeshan Hayat is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad. He specializes is non-proliferation, arms control, disarmament and strategic affairs, with a focus on Russia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.