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Lack of progress: Ties with Russia


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EVEN though it had the grandiose title of strategic dialogue, the two-day talks between Pakistan and Russia in Moscow broke no new ground. As the statement issued by the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Friday shows, the only point on which the two governments agree is not to ignore each other and seek cooperation in political, economic and defence matters. Theoretically, this opens up a new vista of cooperation. But the unsatisfactory record of their bilateral relationship since Russia shed its ‘empire’ baggage leaves little room for optimism. The statement, issued following the foreign secretary’s talks with Russian diplomats, emphasises the need for “more high-level contacts”. Actually, there have been no high-level parleys since President Asif Ali Zardari and President Vladimir Putin cancelled their visits last year, the former for domestic reasons, the latter because of lack of progress on the Iran pipeline to which Moscow had made a financial commitment.

The history of Pakistan-Russia ties is mired in hostility, stemming from this country’s membership of the US-led military alliances during the Cold War. Pakistan was then considered America’s most ‘allied ally’, and it was from an American air base in Pakistan that the U-2 spy plane piloted by Gary Powers flew over Russia and was shot down. Their relationship worsened when the USSR invaded Afghanistan, and Pakistan became a willing conduit for the CIA’s overt and covert aid to anti-Soviet guerillas fighting the America-led ‘jihad’. Unfortunately, in spite of the Soviet Union’s breakup, Islamabad and Moscow have not been able to forge a closer relationship, even though they have common concerns in the region, especially in what Russia calls its ‘near abroad’. Like Islamabad, Moscow will carefully watch the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan, and it is in the two countries’ interest to exchange notes on militant networks in the region. Pakistan must also seek to diversify its political and economic relations. Post-communism Russia may be facing challenges but let us not underestimate its potential as a major global player in the future.

Comments (4) Closed

Feroz Sep 01, 2013 12:43pm

A trouble maker and spoiler can never aspire for any special or strategic relationship, considering the paucity of its offerings and record of its dealings with its supposed allies. When Pakistan can match its actions with its talk, rather walk the talk, its credibility will improve dramatically, not just with its neighbors but with every country.

zaheer Sep 01, 2013 11:21pm

The mere fact that the dialogue between Russia and Pakistan continues is cause for optimism and should be encouraged by all the stakeholders in both countries.Better economic and strategic relations between neighbors and two sovereign nations should be seen as a positive development for the entire region.

Ibne Khaldoun Sep 02, 2013 12:53am

There are some remnant Viking/Varangian elements in the Russian society overpowering the religious Orthodox Christian majority.

Were Russia to see the benefit it received from Pakistan's involvement in the Afghan war against the Soviet empire, She would feel friendliness. The freedom to worship and correct understand of man's place in the universe has arrived in Russia, thanks to her freedom from the Soviet clutches which was the result of Afghan Jihad. Pakistan did not get into Afghan Jihad either for the benefit of CIA or USA or Poland, of from any hatred or enmity of Russia or Orthodox Christianity or the Byzantine, but simply to protect Afghanistan and herself.

In the same way, the communist revolution and the death of millions in the famines and collectivizations and the Nazi invasions was not the doing of Pakistan or any muslim entity. The landed elite of those regions did not need communism but only orthodox christian empathy to bring about an industrial revolution.

Why blame Pakistan for the sufferings she had nothing to do. At the least, she is an honest friend of friends and history testifies to it.

AbbasToronto Sep 02, 2013 11:28pm

While Iran-Russia and India-Russia friendships are fired up, Pak-Russia buddying will starve for fuel as long as Kaliphate lovers are at the helm here.

The changing fate of Russia should be seen in a wider framework. In the 1930s Toynbee identified 5 living Civilizations:

  1. Hellenized West
  2. Christian Russia
  3. Islam (Syriac, Iranic)
  4. Indics
  5. Sinics

At the height of godless Communism, Toynbee correctly asserted that Russia was the only Christian country left on the globe, and that the West was Christian no more. Events proved him right. While Papacy in the West bites dust, Orthodox Church has asserted itself again and become its monopolistic State Religion.

Hinduism and Christianity both are agrarian religions based on Love which is the necessary and sufficient condition of survival of any agrarian economy.

Iran and Russia are also similar in psyche:

  1. Rulers in both adopted a new religion at the end of their First millennium. Vladimir in 982, and Shah Abbas in 950 A.H.
  2. In elevating their prophets to divine status, Christian and Shia theologies are carbon copy of each other.
  3. Both are headed by clergy of a single faith and sect.
  4. The two neighbours are cooperating in defense and industry
  5. Complement each other - Iran grows while Russia loses people
  6. Islam in Russia is gaining strength, its army is already 50% Muslim

In history, Russia has vacillated between Westernization and Easternization in 2-century cycle. After the Socialist debacle (of Western origin) Russia is ready to be Easternized for the next few centuries.

Pakistan has been on a