On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine on the pretext to stop Ukraine from joining NATO which is a threat to the security and stability of Russia. Due to the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has to face the brunt of consequences from the West and the US in the form of sanctions. Europe is the biggest importer of gas and crude oil from Russia. In 2021, the EU imported $108 billion worth of energy from Russia, by far its biggest import from the country. Western sanctions are starting to have an impact on Russia’s economy. According to the International Institute of Finance, Russia’s gross domestic product is estimated to shrink by 15 percent by the end of the year. Currently, Russia has robust ties with South Asian states and despite sanctions, it wants to enhance trade relations with these states to balance its economy.
Therefore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did an official visit to India for two days from 31 March to 1st April 2022. The visit took place after the Russian Foreign Minister completed their two days visit to China to attend the Troika plus summit on the evolving situation of Afghanistan. The key focus of the visit was on India’s purchase of discounted Russian crude oil and putting in place a rupee-ruble payment system for bilateral trade in view of Western sanctions against Moscow. Russian foreign minister also persuades India to hold on to its neutral line on the Ukraine war and bypass international sanctions to buy more of its crude oil. It indicates that trade between both states is unlikely to be affected. It was the first highest-level visit from Russia to India after Moscow launched its military operations in Ukraine.
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Understanding the actual matter
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report highlighted that Russia exported approximately 23 percent of arms to India from 2016 to 2020, which account for 49 percent of all Indian arms imports in the same period. In December 2021, India had also begun to receive deliveries of the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile defense system, following a visit that month by President Putin to New Delhi. In its 2021 National Security Strategy, Russia described relations with New Delhi as a “special and privileged strategic partnership”.
On 2 March 2022, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that “demands” Russia “immediately” withdraw from Ukraine, in a powerful rebuke of Moscow´s invasion by a vast majority of the world´s nations. However, India Pakistan, and China among 35 other countries ‘abstained’ from voting on the UNGA resolution. It was for the first time in 40 years that the Council decided to call for an emergency special session in the General Assembly. Therefore, the political analysts predict that India’s abstention in the UNSC vote could be a result of both the large arms imports and India’s more nuanced position on issues related to conflicts involving the US, Russia and China.
Though both India and Pakistan have abstained in UN votes condemning the Russian invasion only Pakistan came under the increasing pressure from western nations to revise its neutrality. To maintain relations with the two nuclear powers of South Asia India and Pakistan, the US and the Western world have different parameters. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’svisit to Russia was criticized by the West and US. In the past, Pakistan was a major regional ally of the United States to contain Russian Forces in Afghanistan whereas Pakistan’s ties with Russia have increased in recent years, after being unfriendly during the Cold War. Pakistan has shifted its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics through economic connectivity and development partnerships.
However, the agenda of Prime minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia was trade, development and stream gas pipeline, a proposed 1,100km (684-mile) pipeline running from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to the central Punjab province. In recent years, Pakistan and Russia have also increased contact through the former’s now full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Russian President Putin’s remarks on how insults to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad should be seen as a “violation of religious freedom” was appreciated by Pakistan.
Read more: Russia pounds Ukraine’s S-300 air defense system delivered by Europe
In the current geopolitical environment, every state is struggling hard to make dynamic relations with the states that are useful for the socio-economic as well as the political stability of the state. Consequently, all the countries that were rivals of each other in the past are becoming supporters of each other. Russia is rich in energy resources such as oil and gas, while Pakistan is an energy-scarce country. Therefore, emerging new partnerships between both states may develop new political stability among the states that will be significantly important for the success and development of both countries.
Contemporary, Pakistan also needs to bypass Western sanctions on Russia and like India should enhance trade with Russia through a rupee-ruble payment system. In nutshell, Russia may try to balance its South Asia policy and make alliances with this region to keep them in its sphere of influence.
The writer is an Islamabad-based analyst and can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.