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بدھ، 10 اکتوبر، 2012

New stage of relations between Russia and Pakistan

 The recent developments - the visit of the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Mr. Sergey Lavrov to Pakistan and the same time the visit of a very influential figure in the Pakistani power hierarchy Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visit to Moscow -- these visits probably gave the way for better relationship and they probably promised to develop such relationship that can be really of great influence not only for the progress in the bilateral relations but also for the progress in the region.

 Pakistan has taken steps leading to a paradigm shift in its foreign policy to regain its honour undermined by its decisions in the past. Pakistan was left on its own by the United States when it was member of SEATO and CENTO and during the crisis of 1971 and even punished with US passed Pressler Amendment to stop aid.
Pakistan helped the United States in the beginning to connect ties with China at a time when it was mired in the war in Vietnam. The issues of Salala post, Raymond Davis, and Osama Bin Laden led Pakistan to take bold steps with reference to its foreign policy. This is why we can see that Pakistan is building new ties with the regional powers. Developing strong bilateral relations with Russia seems as the best possible step taken by the government and establishment of Pakistan these days. President Putin’s visit to Pakistan was of immense importance in this respect which unluckily has been deferred for some reasons.
Following the unexpected deferral of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Pakistan, many suppositions are in air as to why the visit has been postponed. Analysts argue that, the visit has been canceled, while the Foreign Office of Pakistan says that “New summit dates will be worked out after seeking convenience of the respective leaders through diplomatic channels.”
Whatsoever the factors were behind the scene, Russian President did not visit Pakistan per schedule despite the efforts made by the foreign offices of both the countries. Apart from the postponement of the Putin’s visit, this is a fact that, after decades of remaining away from each other, relations between Pakistan and Russia have improved in last one decade as Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s landmark visit translates.
The warming of the relations between Russia and Pakistan is the demand of the day due to the coherence of interests of both the countries. After the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014, US has decided to establish six permanent military bases in the war-torn country having eye on the energy resources of Central Asia-with multiple strategic designs against Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia. Russia wants to get more involved in regional affairs to counterbalance growing influence of the US-led west in the region. It knows that Pakistan can play a key role in the Afghan endgame and for Russian interests in Afghanistan.
In the recent years, besides, various annual summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which includes Russia, China and four Central Asian states including Pakistan and Iran, on 16 August 2007, in their summit, the leaders of the SCO displayed strength against the US rising dominance in the region and military presence in Afghanistan, near the region of Central Asia. Pakistan’s recent decision to transfer Gwadar port’s operational control from Port Singapore Authority to a Chinese company has geo economic implications. The Russians and central Asian states could seek a link up with Gwadar via the north-south trade/energy corridor, a proposal which Pakistan may willingly agree to. The SCO could well be the counter to US backed interference in Balochistan.
Moscow’s willingness to assist in expansion/modernization of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) with $500 million investment would enhance Steel Mills annual production capacity from the current 1.1 to 1.5 million tons and subsequently to 3.0 million tons. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for PSM’s upgradation was expected to be signed during President Putin’s Islamabad visit, which will most probably be signed in the near future. Despite strong US opposition including threats of sanctions, the Russians have signalled their willingness to fund and provide technical assistance for Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project provided contract is awarded to Russian energy giant - Gazprom
Gazprom, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world and the largest Russian company, has indicated an interest in participating in the pipeline project carrying gas from Iran to Pakistan. Gazprom has more than adequate experience in the field. By end 2004 Gazprom produced 19.4 trillion cubic feet, or 85 percent of Russia’s total gas production. Obama policy on this issue is not yet clear however it is relevant to point out that Gazprom has the necessary finances to turn this deal into reality as, apart from its gas reserves and the world’s longest pipeline network (150,000 km), Gazprom also controls assets in banking, insurance, media, construction and agriculture.
There is speculation that Gazprom’s interest in the IPI pipeline project maybe due to Russia’s geo-political considerations: Russia’s resistance to the American supported Central Asia South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM) project that is focused on supplying energy deficient South Asia from energy surplus Central Asia. It maybe recalled that Gazprom, with the backing of the Russian government, agreed to purchase all surplus energy from the Central Asian Republics as a countermove to US efforts to open Central Asia’s energy to South Asia. The cancellation of the Russian President’s visit is also attributed to the Gazprom’s interest of taking IPI pipeline project without open biding, which was turned down by Pakistan as a matter against SOPs.
It is perceived that US viewed Islamabad’s warming up to Moscow as a threat for their interests in the region. The United States is considered as taking Pak-Russia engagement as a contributor towards reducing US influence on Islamabad. That is why the postponement of Russian President’s visit to Pakistan is taken as the result of US arrogance towards Pakistan by the analysts. It is believed that US by using its diplomatic channel with India has played the key role in the deferral of the President Putin’s visit. Despite all this, new avenues of a better tomorrow are open to both Pakistan and Russia. They need to take bold steps in developing their strong bilateral relations as it is the demand of the day from the both.


By Muhammad Kashif Irshad.

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