The end of Cold War witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs: a transition from bipolar world to a unipolar one. The fall of the Soviet Union ensured the US status of sole-superpower. Till date, the US has ensured to withhold its status as a global power in this evolving multi-polar world. However, some recent advancements at the international level, such as the withdrawal of the US from Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal under the Trump administration have raised some serious questions for both its allies and adversaries. The change in the US policies has indeed worked as a strategic impetus resulting in strategic realignment among states.
The role of Pakistan as a frontline state against the Soviets bore serious consequence for the newborn state of Pakistan. And till date, Pakistan is paying a hefty price in the form of terrorism. Despite being an ally in the war on terror, Pakistan on and off has been imposed with socio-economic sanctions for not doing more. This ungrateful attitude of the US has instigated Pakistan to look for alliance on equal footings rather than being blamed continuously.
The 21st century is marked by changing geo-strategic and economic interests. In this changing paradigm, partners/alliances would be necessary for all serious endeavours, but one must keep in mind that they will shift as soon as circumstances change.
Afghanistan was once the bone of contention between Pakistan and Russia, but it is turning into a point of co-operation. The improvement in relations can also be referred to the US’ hawkish policies and dual tactics to refrain the South Asian region from ensuing strategic stability.
"The catch for Pakistan is to maintain a delicate balance in its foreign policy options"
On the contrary, Russia and China have shown commitment to achieving peace in the region as a mutual goal to create a win-win situation. However, the states should keep in mind the fact that there are no permanent friends or foes in this world of anarchy. States like Pakistan should opt for the famous proverb: ‘ends justify the means’. At the moment the top priority for Pakistan is to achieve strategic and economic stability. In the past, Pakistan’s policy and security framework was more India-centric.
In this approach what got undermined were the strategic priorities which could better be achieved by allying with the right partner. Pakistan has encouraged Russia’s role in governance crisis of the Middle East. This leads us to the conclusion that Pakistan-Russia strategic cooperation in Afghanistan could act as founding stone of collaboration between the two nemeses of Cold War in other international crisis as well.
Some recent exchange of visits and signing of bilateral and multilateral agreements between Pakistan and Russian counterparts aim at bridging the Cold War gap. The offer of multidimensional strategic partnership to Russia by Pakistan is a step in the right direction as it would promote regional peace and stability. On the other hand, the Russian Ground Forces commander gave a statement referring to Pakistan as a geo-strategically important country and expressed Russia’s willingness to expand its existing bilateral military-to-military cooperation. This burgeoning strategic and economic relationship between Russia and Pakistan is seen with a suspicious eye both by the US and India. However, this should not bother either Pakistan or Russia. If the US can play on strategic grounds, so is the right of other states.
The other measure that needs to be appreciated in terms of regional stability is the Peace Mission 2018 that would be hosted by Russia in September 2018 under the SCO agreement. It aims at conducting joint anti-terrorism military exercises among the member states.
The good side of the picture is that both India and Pakistan are signatory of the SCO agreement. This would enable both India and Pakistan to counter the trust deficit in terms of terrorist activities by participating on the same platform. Keeping in view the significance of strategic relations between Russia and India and the strategic realignment of the Cold War nemesis, Moscow seems in a much stronger position than the US to mediate on all the outstanding issues challenging South Asian regional security.
Moreover, we need to learn from our past mistakes, as sometimes it is not always a political mistake but a wrong move on the part of the leadership to decide in the best interest of the nation. Allying with Russia is a strategic need of Pakistan to secure its economy and economic projects and also to ensure its strategic significance at international level.
The change in relationship with Russia by no means is an attempt to abandon the relationship with the US. This point was further clarified by Pakistan defence minister while speaking about the Pak- Russia relations: “this need not be in any way a zero-sum relationship with the United States, it is just that Pakistan has done a regional calibration of its foreign and security policies.” To conclude the way forward for Pakistan is to pursue its relationship with Russia and keep it independent of its relationship with other countries and vice versa.
A version of this article appeared in Daily Times, newspaper.
Amna Tauhidi is a Research Intern at the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS). She holds MPhil degree in Government and Public policy from National Defense University. Her research interest includes traditional and non-tradition security threats, South Asian stability and instability paradox and the rising significance of the economic corridors in the era of globalization.