With the Pakistan Army hosting Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel General Israkov Sergi Yuryevich on a visit to North Waziristan, analysts were quick to note a new friendship developing between Pakistan and Russia.

“This is an interesting and unusual development. The military relations between the two countries are growing rapidly but we cannot be so forward as to call it an alliance yet,” Pakistan’s former military attaché to Afghanistan retired Brigadier Saad Mohammad said during a talk show on a private TV channel.

Brig Saad said the relationship only started to mend when Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu visited Pakis­tan in November 2014 “and signed a defence cooperation contract with us”.

“Last year’s military exercise is an example of the countries’ mutual interests, apart from that the naval forces of both countries participated in ‘Arabian Monsoon’ exercises in 2014 and again in 2015,” said the former defence attaché referring to last year’s special forces drills conducted in Pakistan.

Brig Saad, however, pointed out that an alliance between Pakistan and Russia would not be without China, a mutual friend. “The prospect of an alliance between Pakistan and Russia will not be possible without their mutual friend — China”. He also said that Turkey too was interested in such an alliance.

“Turkey is also interested to be part of the group and I know for a fact that President Erdogan has shown his willingness in the matter,” Brig Saad added.

“So this will be a four-way alliance between China, Turkey Russia and Pakistan and there is a lot of restlessness in the US regarding this prospective alliance and we cannot rule out the US factor as they are sitting in Afghanistan right now,” Brig Saad cautioned, but also said, “The game is on.”

Hinting that the ongoing tug-of-war between the US and Russia in the region may be a reason for Russia’s developing interest in Pakistan, Brig Saad said, “We should not forget that there was a time when there was a Quadrilateral Coordination Group consisting of China, Pakistan, US and Afghanistan to discuss reconciliation in Afghanistan in 2016,” Brig Saad said and added, “This threatened Russia and it entered into separate talks with China and Pakistan regarding Afghanistan.

“So Russia wants to bring Afghanistan under its influence as much as the US does, and Pakistan has prior experience dealing with Afghan Taliban,” Brig Saad further said.

“Our history with Afghanistan and the Taliban and our friendship with China are the two reasons for this interest.”

Talat Masood, a defence analyst, referred to the recent change in relations as a qualitative change.

“It is one of the good things happening to Pakistan and shows how the scenario is changing at the regional and global level,” said Mr Masood.

The defence analyst added that President Putin of Russia was pursuing a clever and aggressive policy with Pakistan in regards to improving diplomatic relations.

“The current Russian policy neutralises Indian designs against Pakistan and shows that the country has not been isolated,” added Mr Masood.

“It is ironic that for almost four decades the situation was completely opposite.”

“Enemies are moving towards becoming allies and friends, which is beneficial for all keeping the current geo-politics in perspective,” elaborated the defence analyst.

Mr Masood also said Pakistan was now emerging as a country with significant geo-strategic importance and economic development.

“Pakistan is getting rid of isolationism.”

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2017

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