The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Imran Khan, is visiting Moscow on Wednesday 23 February to discuss half a dozen issues with the Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin. These issues were broadly deliberated when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, visited Islamabad in April, last year. Again, when PM IK visited Beijing to attend the Winter Olympics, earlier this month, it was reaffirmed that these would be debated at length when the leaders of both countries faced each other in Moscow.
It would be unjust to ignore, here, the importance of General Nadeem Raza’s September 2020 visit to the Kremlin during which he spent hours with the Russian military hierarchy and convinced them of Pakistan’s pivotal role towards regional stability, security, peace and prosperity. The arguments that Pakistan’s CJCS put across to his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, are helping President Putin and his team whilst dealing with the ongoing Ukraine imbroglio.
Read more: RT’s Interviews With PM IK & The Taliban show Russia’s “Balancing” Intent
BON VOYAGE, PM KHAN
PM Khan has interest in the history and current affairs of Eurasia. Furthermore, before leaving Islamabad for Moscow, he has run through several tutorials offered by his epistemic community composed of MoFA, Pak Envoy to Russia, MO Directorate, senior academics, learned journalists and some recently rewarded A-class members of his cabinet.
This visit is taking place amid culminating Moscow-Kyiv crisis, incendiary news broadcasts of US-aligned media, and torrent of journal articles written by ‘paid’ academics squatting area study centres of various universities on both sides of the Atlantic. All are showing that, perhaps, recent history’s fourth Russian invasion is just around the corner! However, for an avid reader of the European History any such attempt would be a flagrant madness—hence remotely likely. Mr Stoltenberg doesn’t have naïve military commanders like Marshal Augereau/Marshal Beauharnaise (1812), nor does Lloyd Austin have complacent generals like Max Hoffmann (1916) or Walter von Brauchitsch (1941).
Europe’s changing geo-economic dynamics
Premier Khan seems clear about one thing—the European leaders want to pack up the rusty NATO in order to acquire full autonomy from the Pentagon. They are self-sufficient to defend themselves WITHOUT the United States—a statement given four decades ago by then French President, Francois Mitterrand, purportedly suggesting to his US counterpart, Ronald Reagan, “Let Europe be ruled by the Europeans”.
During his meeting with the Russian leadership, Premier Khan may concur that one little attempt by the NATO military adventurists to invade or attack Russia from anywhere—the Baltics in the northwest, down to Ukraine through the Belarus-Poland snow desert—will dismantle the entire Atlantic Treaty.
Read more: PM Khan’s visit to Russia: Why is India worried?
NATO may start the war, but Kremlin will finish it!
It is less likely that Ukraine will think the ‘unthinkable’. It can not afford to pay such an astronomical cost to obtain the NATO membership. President Zelenskyy and his foreign minister Kuleba wouldn’t provoke Russia beyond the ‘war of words’. Both Ukrainian leaders have strategic prudence that Kyiv is no more interested to be America’s Taipei in Europe.
The ruling elites of Scandinavia, BeNeLux, France, Germany, Poland and the Baltics are inherently convinced that the NordStream and associated prosperity-guaranteeing initiatives by Russia will provide much stronger defence and security umbrella to the region than the ageing NATO. Arguably, Russia’s NordStream initiative to Europe is like the Chinese BRI/CPEC enterprise to South Asia and the Middle East.
The British leadership seems totally confused over the Russia-Ukraine crisis. They know that Britain is shrinking geopolitically—especially after the Brexit they have become almost irrelevant to Europe. However, being a NATO ally, they will follow the instructions from Washington—however, they will “bark, but wouldn’t bite”. The FCO ‘apprentices’ led by their foreign secretary Liz Truss, during their recent two meetings with Sergey Lavrov—Stockholm (December 2021) and again, Moscow (early February 2022), felt hugely condescended, when they were branded ‘deaf and dumb’.
Equipped with adequate knowledge and up-to-date information, PK Khan may frustrate the battery of domestic Opposition spokesmen who are questioning, customarily, his timing for this visit. Here, it reminds me a saying of Vladimir Putin, “In the modern world, those who are weak will get unambiguous advice from foreign visitors which way to go and what policy course to pursue”. During his two-day visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Khan, inter alia, will have the opportunity to gain the first-hand knowledge about the quantum of Indian ingress in the Russian political leadership, diplomatic hierarchy and military establishment.
Read more: Takeaways from PM Khan’s recent visit to China
Moscow New-Dehli defence ties
The Moscow-New Delhi bilateral relations, as enshrined in IRIGC (India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission) have entered their seventh decade. I do not want to mention here the genesis of this courtship developing between Nehru and Khrushchev during 1953-64—impacting on the 1962 Sino-Indian armed conflict and the 1965 India-Pakistan War. It is also not in the scope of this research that how Brezhnev showered his benevolence on Indira Gandhi during 1966-82—affecting the course and consequence of 1971 India-Pakistan War.
However, I am intrigued by the Indian high claim for having ‘strategic partnership’ with Russia on one side, and the US on the other. Isn’t this transgression of the Hindu ‘Dharum’ (faith)—having two partners, simultaneously? Half a dozen Russian consulates in India, Moscow’s support to New Delhi towards UN, G-20, BRICS, SCO, APEC and NSG, and consistently fulfilling India’s 2-3rd military requirements since end of the Cold War, are the realities well known to PM Khan and his accompanying team of experts—thank goodness, none of them is a businessman who will secure private business deals, as done by previous Pakistani ruling elites.
As per the latest statistics, India is the second biggest market for the Russian arms/weapons and military equipment. It has signed $35 billion worth of defence contracts with Russia’s MIC. As per the data compiled by the celebrated IISS-published Military Balance—Russia has supplied to the Indian military arsenal, more than 95% of fighting vehicles/MBTs, 52% of artillery/rocket-launchers, and 100% of air-defence systems.
Further to signing of $5.5 billion agreement on air-defence, in October 2018, the first batch of S-400 ground-to-air missiles has already entered India’s military equipment inventory. The other four S-400 shipments will reach India by the spring of 2023. This will enable India install five such systems across the country—three of them directed to China and two against Pakistan.
The Indian Air Force, is spending $2.5 billion in the next two years, to receive 33 new Su-30s and have upgradation of 59 MiG-29s—perhaps Wing Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman gets a better flying machine this time unlike his previous dogfight with the PAF pilots, if not a trimmed moustache or enhanced courage to ‘live twice’ for another Vir Chakra.
Read more: Russia-China 2.0: Joint Statement on International Relations
India Russia military cooperation and US displeasure
In the realm of contemporary military diplomacy—it is an interesting mystification that despite doing all above with Russia, India’s strategic romance with the US seems still going well. The Americans have been showing their verbal resentment to India, through all forums—the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, HoR sub-committees on defense, the Oval Office, the DoS, the DoD, aggressive media and hawkish academia. No avails!
Last year, Ken Juster, the outgoing US Ambassador to New Delhi cautioned India about its strategic options, military choices and defence trade-offs vis-a-vis Russia. During 2020-21, the US Senate considered twice to punish India by enforcing the 2017 CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) Law, nevertheless, two big events of that period saved India—one was the Covid pandemic, and other armed conflict with China in the Laddakh region. The Pentagon Chief, Lloyd Austin has repeatedly expressed his displeasure before the Indian leadership for ignoring purchases of US arms for their defence needs. He was critical even about the Indian decision to buy the 33 French Dassault Rafale jets.
The Chairman of Senate CoFR, Rob Mennendez, whose Armenian wife Nadine Arsalanian hates Russia, still has the loudest voice for slapping sanctions on Narendra Modi for buying S-400 defence system from Vladimir Putin. To date, the four leading American missile manufacturing companies haven’t yet invented a powerful equivalent of S-400.
Changing geopolitical and geostrategic realities
The geopolitical and geostrategic realities around Pakistan are changing momentously. They reshaped after crumbling of Soviets Russia, and again in the post 9/11 era. The fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government and takeover by the Afghan Taliban have further transformed the regional security landscape. Despite being a NATO member state—Turkey has already procured S-400 from Russia. For Iran, getting rid of the prolonged notorious/inhumane US sanctions, is now a matter of few weeks—if not days.
The Americans and their allies are frustrated after signing of $400 billion security/business deal between Tehran and Beijing (March 2021), the $55 billion gas pipeline contract inked between Putin and Xi (December 2019) and more recently the completion of Russia’s NordStream gas pipeline for Europe (2021).
Read more: Biden orders troop deployment against Russia
The classical global axis of military power is being replaced by regional arbours of trade, economy and prosperity. This decade (2021-30) belongs to China and Russia—backed by Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Recommendations and suggestions
What PM Imran Khan can put to the table, before Vladimir Putin is:
i) Formal formation of an extended regional bloc of 15+ countries.
ii) Common currency for all member states—good bye to Dollars and Pounds—but Euro can still be relevant–interfacing with the new regional currency.
iii) A unified banking system for all member states—independent of World Bank and the IMF.
iv) Visa-free entry for all members of this bloc.
v) Substantial reduction of tariffs and custom duties on imports and exports by member states.
vi) Shared cultural, social and civilizational values.
vii) Modernisation/building the road and railway networks connecting all member states.
viii) Extensive parliamentary interactions/exchanges.
ix) Inter-university/college exchange programmes to boost scientific and social science research and academic excellence.
x) Give a decade to likeminded political parties/leaders to rule and work for sustainable regional stability, progress, prosperity and public happiness. The prolonged/visionary leaderships of Putin, Xi, Erdogan, Ali Khamenei are working perfectly for their nations. Pakistan must follow them.
xi) Unified protocols for laws related to crimes like corporate corruption, money-laundering, religious extremism and hate preach etc.
xii) Finally, formation of a unified regional defence and security alliance.
Ejaz Hussain is a London-based analyst on South-Asian and Middle-Eastern security. He is an alumnus of Oxford, Durham, LSE, and King’s College, London. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.