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جمعہ، 5 اکتوبر، 2012

Russian-Pakistani military and diplomatic cooperation

Russia condemns any breach of sovereignty, the country’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the recent Turkish border shelling by Syria. The Minister who was speaking after the meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar also slammed the UN for ignoring Syrian violence, including terrorist attacks.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Islamabad and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s to Moscow should go a long way to erode the uncomfortable impression that was generated when President Vladimir Putin abruptly cancelled his Pakistan trip. That cancellation was certainly a setback. It should be acknowledged. But annihilative too it was not. That is more than evident from these two visits.

 Lavrov may be visiting Pakistan in response to his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar’s invitation, extended earlier. But the very fact that he is undertaking it soon after the postponement of the Russian president’s visit is significantly meaningful. And that Gen. Kayani has gone ahead with his Moscow visit as scheduled in response to his Russian counterpart’s invitation tells that Pakistan too wants to remain engaged with Russia.

Indeed, President Putin had postponed his visit to Pakistan but had not closed doors on it. In his message to President Asif Ali Zardari, expressing his inability to visit Pakistan as scheduled, he had specifically stated that the two would keep meeting on the occasion of international moots. He had even said that the Russians would be very happy to welcome him on a Russia visit. Furthermore, a high-powered Russian delegation came to Pakistan this weekend and signed a raft of MOUs for refurbishing the Pakistan Steel Mills and collaborating in railways and energy sectors.

More to the point. An inter-state relationship is a process. Not just high-profile visits, though they hold their own import in this relationship. More important is to build upon convergences and forge a relationship that is mutually beneficial and serves mutual interests. And it appears that both Moscow and Islamabad are consciously working to develop such a relationship by walking clean out of the shackles of the defunct cold war.

In the post-cold war dispensation, zero-sum equations have in effect become wholly untenable. And the two countries seem quite in line with this new world order while reorienting their bilateral relationship anew. What is constant even now are the national interests. All said and done, in the ultimate analysis, it is the national interests that determine a country’s foreign relationship. 

Interestingly, it was for this reason that during the cold war quite a number of countries in the non-aligned community were in fact the most aligned nations, mostly with the bloc led by the dead Soviet Union. They felt that this posturing served their national interests best. And precisely for this reason some countries who were the sworn enemies during the cold war are today the best friends. Even Vietnam that suffered a brutal bloody war at the hands of the United Sates is presently on an intimate friendly terms with it.

And we too have to chart out new relationships that are in tune with the imperatives of new times. For too long, we have largely been focused on the United States, even as it has ditched us over and over again, at times very crucial to us. Even now, America figures very high on our foreign relations calculus. This is intrinsically baneful. Our aim should be as broad-based spectrum of foreign relationship as possible. For a change, we should stop putting all our eggs in one foreign basket or two.

Since we have no global ambitions, our endeavour must be to cultivate the best feasible bilateral ties with the nations near and afar in conformity with our national interests. If Russia is showing interest in us, we must reciprocate in equal measure. Of course, their interest is not altruistic. But then altruism has no place at all in inter-state relationships. Those are motivated strongly by self-interests.

So it must be with Moscow’s interest in us. It may be for Afghanistan. It may be for countering terrorism. It may be for trade and economic factors. Whatever it is, there must be points of convergences that we must explore and exploit to our benefit. Moscow is, in any case, a key world capital. And getting on well with it could stand us in good stead in furthering our interests, particularly in the economic, trade and commerce fields.

 The Frontier Post

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