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Russia and Pakistan: A Balancing Act?

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News Analysis |

Russia and Pakistan are negotiating on potential energy deals worth of $10 billion, Pakistan’s energy officials told on March 6, 2018.

Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khawaja Asif informed that there are four to five projects which will cement Russia-Pakistan bilateral relations. The most recent development was that Russia has appointed an honorary Consul General, “Arsala Khan” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan where Russian companies are trying to establish an oil refinery and a power station.

Earlier, in July, 2017 Russia’s Gazprom International and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Moscow in order to enhance both countries’ bilateral cooperation. A Pakistani official informed that talks are expected to conclude within 3 months related to energy sector. Russia’s Gazprom is well-planned as “one of the front-runners” to finalize the long-term gas supply deal.  

In this environment, Pakistan must enhance its cooperative relations with these countries but not at the cost of Pakistan-US relations. Pakistan must try to restore its relations with the US by enhancing trade and educational corridors.   

Russia-Pakistan has signed an agreement worth of $2 billion in October, 2015 to establish the liquefied natural gas terminals from Karachi to Lahore, with a capacity of 12.4bcm per annum by Russian state-owned industrial conglomerate Rostec. This project was not progressing because of the US sanctions on Russia.

This project is perceived as the biggest infrastructure deal by Russia since early 1970s, when Soviet engineers constructed the Pakistan Steel Mills. Pakistan’s relations with the US are not smooth since the year of 2015. Presently, their bilateral relations are further deteriorating because of the US support to place Pakistan in the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) because of the latter’s inadequate terrorist financing controls.

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The US has also announced to cut its military aid of $2 billion to Pakistan as the year 2018 begins. The current scenario compels Pakistan to seek other strategic partners such as Russia and China to play its active role in the regional politics. Pakistan is ambitiously working with China the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and pursuing other joint ventures. Simultaneously, Pakistan has to expand its bilateral cooperation with Russia in various sectors such as military, economy, defence, trade & commerce and energy etc.

In contemporary international political scenario, Pakistan has fully realized that its complete tilt towards the US in Cold War era was not a rational choice. Therefore, it is ready to take off to enhance its trade and military relations with other countries chasing its own strategic interests.

It is concerned with the long-term presence of the US and its allies in Afghanistan, and therefore it’s in Russia’s long-term interests to keep an eye on Afghanistan’s situation. That’s why it considers that Pakistan can provide the viewing platform.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif told Reuters, “his nation made a historical error by “tilting 100 percent” to the West and was now eager to build alliances closer to home with the likes of China, Russia and Turkey. We want to correct the imbalance of our foreign policy over 70 years; we are not divorcing that relationship (with the West). But we want to have a balance in our relationships. We want to be closer to our friends in our region.”

Russia-Pakistan relations are increasing relatively more in commerce, trade, energy and military. But their cooperation in civil nuclear domain does not seem reachable in near future. Pakistan is energy starving country and it should persuade Russia to assist the Former in civil nuclear energy so that it can meet up its energy demands.

Read more: Pakistan and Russia closing in on better trade ties

The era of Moscow-Islamabad mutual cooperation has begun. At the same time, Russia perceives Pakistan as important country and it can play an active role to make Afghanistan stable and peaceful. Therefore, both countries have to work on common grounds keeping aside their historical bilateral relations so that they can explore new doors of cooperation.

As Russia is heading to resume its global power status and intervened almost all international affairs such as in the Middle East. Likewise, it is concerned with the long-term presence of the US and its allies in Afghanistan, and therefore it’s in Russia’s long-term interests to keep an eye on Afghanistan’s situation. That’s why it considers that Pakistan can provide the viewing platform.

The US has also announced to cut its military aid of $2 billion to Pakistan as the year 2018 begins. The current scenario compels Pakistan to seek other strategic partners such as Russia and China to play its active role in the regional politics.

In South Asia, the regional alignment has been reshuffled as India is strengthening its relations with the US in almost every field; defence, energy, technology, trade, commerce, space technology and missile technology etc. in order to contain China’s growing regional and global influence while Pakistan is inclined towards China to contain India’ regional ambitions.

Read more: Iran joins China, Russia and Pakistan in rejecting Trump’s Afghan policy

In the meantime Russia is resurging and promoting regionalism like China with their different initiatives; Eurasian Economic Union and Belt & Road initiatives respectively. In this environment, Pakistan must enhance its cooperative relations with these countries but not at the cost of Pakistan-US relations. Pakistan must try to restore its relations with the US by enhancing trade and educational corridors.   

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