Home Global Village Why defense cooperation with Russia is vital for Pakistan?

Why defense cooperation with Russia is vital for Pakistan?

Pakistan has effectively maintained peace in South Asia by struggling to sustain a rough balance of power, through its nuclear posture, parity of Air Defense and missile defense - but India's leverage with the US increasingly threatens that balance of power and can encourage India towards adventurism

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Akash Shah |

“I will wipe the city out of this map with a nuclear strike from where next USAF’s U-2 plane will take off”. The Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev said these words while putting a finger on Pakistan’s map, to Pakistan’s Ambassador to USSR Salman Ali. On May 1st, 1960, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft of US Air Force, took off from Badaber Peshawar.  It was a secret US intelligence facility that President Ayub Khan had authorized on request of Dwight D.

Eisenhower, President of United States Of America.  U-2 was an extraordinary surveillance plane with a flying altitude that was unmatched at that time, 70,000 ft. A feat, which was incomprehensible for aviation engineers around the world, particularly in the Soviet Union. It is believed that the USSR was able to induct a human asset, a Peshawar local, as a technician in the maintenance unit of the facility.

There is no harm in building alliances to reinforce the economic and defense needs, everybody does that. But the alliance formed on the bases of hostile intentions for a third nation never render long-term and healthy implications.

The said human asset was the reason behind malfunctioning of some of the critical components of the aircraft that resulted in the loss of altitude during flight, which is why it was shot down by SA-2 Surface-To-Air missiles. The pilot managed to pull his parachute in time and made it out alive. But to his misfortune, the Soviet troops were waiting for him on the ground where on landing he was taken into custody.

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

Upon interrogation he revealed his take off location and this is when the Prime Minister of USSR summoned Pakistan’s ambassador and said the historic words, mentioned earlier. “In international politics, there are only love affairs, no marriages”. Nothing particularizes the pragmatic nature of global statecraft in a more rational manner than this saying. Two pictures surfaced online recently.

One was of USAF chief in an Indian, indigenously built, LCA TEJAS and the other one was the Russian Air chief’s cockpit inspection of Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder aircraft. These pictures are the immaculate depiction of how far the two nuclear powers of South Asia have moved on since the times of the Cold War.

Pakistan is using Chinese-made LOMADS LY 80 which does not come close to the precision and range of S-400 ABMADS. US air defense systems, THAAD and PATIORT are almost as good as Russian S-400 but with the sort of relations Pakistan has with USA these day.

Both India and Pakistan kept a “non-alliance” posture for the international community during the cold war, but covertly Pakistan sided with the US bloc and India favored the USSR.  But after 9/11, when the world faced an asymmetrical, borderless war on terror coupled with the globalization of economies, the foreign policies weighed the national interests more than the animosities of the past.

Read more: Did Russia just reduce the threat of Indian-backed terrorism against Pakistan?

US, India Cooperation

Pulling US troops out of Afghanistan was one of the most repeated rhetoric of President Donald Trump during his election campaign. But like many of his other campaign vows, it turned out to be another U-turn. Of course things are easier to comment on when one is a candidate than actually taking control of the oval office, particularly when the person has not held any public office before.

His commanders in Afghanistan certainly would have played their part in conceiving him to do so but something had to be fed to the American public accordingly. That is when US strategists came up with the New South Asia Policy, which rebuked Pakistan, putting all the blame on us for US failures in Afghanistan and announced India as their new ally to help them out of the troubles they are facing.

This deal has given India complete superiority as far the defense of its airspace is concerned. What good will our Babur, Shaheen and other missiles serve if they are intercepted in the air miles before hitting their intended targets?

It was followed by reinforcement of troops, upgradation of Afghan air force and a “new military strategy”.  Indian Defense Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, clearly stated “no Indian boots on the ground” policy as far as Afghanistan was concerned to James Mattis. She maintained Indian cooperation on nation building measures such as building infrastructure and training Afghan army but isn’t it precisely what ISAF, USAID and DFID etc. have already been doing there for years? 

One wonders how India then facilitates the peace process when it has no leverage on the third and major stakeholder, the Afghan Taliban. It is crystal clear to anyone that the Indian presence in the country only means an increased insurgency via hostile elements on Pakistani soil. How it is going to bring peace to Afghanistan, is beyond my personal understanding.

Read more: Afghanistan: Growing regional consensus between Russia, China, Iran & Pakistan..?

As it turns out, India may have found that they have very little to lose and a lot to gain being on the US side. The major indication towards which came when aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin expressed its interest in manufacturing F-16V fighter jets in India. Since the PM Narendra Modi has taken office, his focus, apparently, has been the economic growth under the tag line “Make in India” to promote the manufacturing industry in order to curb the growing unemployment.

Since then, massive R&D and resources have been put into the development of state of the art air defense mechanisms. In October 2016, India announced that it is going to buy S-400 Triumf Anti-Ballistic Missiles and Air Defense System (ABMADS) from Russia.

But critics argue that things have gone from bad to worst instead of improving. Particularly by steps such as “demonetization”, which made India’s GDP hit some record lows. But when mega industries like Lockheed Martin show their interest in capital investment in the country, PM Modi is obviously going to relish the opportunity. Whatever Trump’s new South Asia policy will result in is a matter for the future, but for present, the new allies are looking enthusiastic about the prospect of this new alliance, or at least India is.

Russia, Pakistan Cooperation

Though it should have been realized much earlier, but particularly after the Salala incident, Pakistan’s top brass decided to balance out the foreign policy, which was US slanting since the inception of the country. Apart from the foreign policy perspective, Pakistan sought an alternative for the state of the art modern weaponry for the defense reasons. 

During the tenure of General Kayani, the talks between two countries for defense cooperation were initiated. Since then, both Pakistan and Russia have built consensus on several matters of regional and mutual interest. And among regional interest, the most significant one is of course, Afghanistan. It is now evident now more than ever that the military solution is just a contingency plan and the only way out of the Afghan turmoil is a political solution. Sooner or later, US troops will have to move out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Iran, China and Russia will have to deal with whatever was left in the war torn country. In recent times, we have seen increased cooperation and efforts on part of the above mentioned regional powers to sort out a solution which is in the best interest of Afghanistan as well as its neighbors.

It is crystal clear to anyone that the Indian presence in the country only means an increased insurgency via hostile elements on Pakistani soil. How it is going to bring peace to Afghanistan, is beyond my personal understanding.

Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese political philosopher and military strategist said, “Invincibility lies in the defense; but possibility of victory lies in attack”. Pakistan has always advocated the policy of non-aggression towards its neighbors but at the same time expressed the resolute stance to deter any threat or act of aggression with absolute might.

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

In modern warfare, the above-mentioned Sun Tzu axiom becomes even more relevant. Hitler’s Blitzkrieg exhibited an unprecedented effectiveness of air offense in WWII. Since then, massive R&D and resources have been put into the development of state of the art air defense mechanisms. In October 2016, India announced that it is going to buy S-400 Triumf Anti-Ballistic Missiles and Air Defense System (ABMADS) from Russia.

This deal has given India complete superiority as far the defense of its airspace is concerned. What good will our Babur, Shaheen and other missiles serve if they are intercepted in the air miles before hitting their intended targets?

Though it should have been realized much earlier, but particularly after the Salala incident, Pakistan’s top brass decided to balance out the foreign policy, which was US slanting since the inception of the country.

On the other hand, Pakistan is using Chinese-made Low-to-Medium altitude Air Defense System (LOMADS) LY 80 which does not come close to the precision and range of S-400 ABMADS. US air defense systems, Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System (THAAD) and PATIORT are almost as good as Russian S-400 but with the sort of relations Pakistan has with USA these day, acquiring these seems almost impossible in the near future. The only way left is to negotiate with Russia for the purchase of S-400 in order to match India’s superior air defense. 

Read more: Where does Pakistan fit in the emerging US-Russia conflict in Afghanistan

Recently, Pakistan’s elite special force combatants Special Services Group (SSG) and their Russian counterparts Spetsnaz carried out military exercises in Chirat. This is an indication of how far both countries have moved on from the period of that particular threat from Soviet PM Nikita Khrushchev. There is no harm in building alliances to reinforce the economic and defense needs, everybody does that. But the alliance formed on the bases of hostile intentions for a third nation never render long-term and healthy implications.

The author is a student, pursuing his degree in Social Sciences at SZABIST Islamabad; and deeply interested in international relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 


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