RUSSIA AND PAKISTAN WEREN’T EXACTLY THE BEST OF FRIENDS DURING THE COLD WAR

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Russia and Pakistan weren’t exactly the best of friends during the Cold War. But the two nations have made great amends in their bilateral relations in the last two years

The addition of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is a good example of how a leader, in this case Xi Jinping can turn an idea into reality. OBOR and Pakistan’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) also makes the upcoming regional changes relevant to Russia. CPEC isn’t just a trade route. It is also about the construction of major projects. The scheme has given impetus to China and Pakistan to cooperate in many fields of infrastructure, energy, agriculture and communication. There are several reports which suggest that the corridor will be host to an oil pipeline that will carry one million barrels of oil to China per day. This will be a welcome change for China, which currently imports about eight million barrels per day. Out of the eight million barrels, six million come in through sea routes.

It is still important to discuss whether CPEC can actually bring some measure of financial stability to Pakistan and how the Chinese will want to be repaid for it if it does. Some argue that the benefits CPEC will bring to China will be so great that the Chinese will happily take a number of financial losses involved in the development of CPEC. However, Pakistan should still be wary as it is unlikely to be able to pay for a number of costly CPEC projects.

Russia has long desired to have access to a warm water port. And it seems Gwadar suits it just fine
It is predicted that the project, which costs over 50 billion dollarswill not only be a game changer for Pakistan but Asia as a whole. There is also apprehension that India would start a military confrontation over CPEC. But that greatly depends on how many countries stand to benefit from CPEC. At the moment, the probability that India would be so reckless is very low.

As far as Russia is concerned, it is important to remember the relationship that country has with India. It has been a key weapon supplier to India for decades. Would it join an alliance with two of India’s biggest rivals? There are some indicators that it might actually leave India behind to enter an alliance with China and Pakistan in order to benefit from CPEC. Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bogdanov has already made a visit to Gwadar and reportedly, he showed great interest in Russia becoming a part of CPEC. Intelligence officials from both countries have also expressed interest in strengthening defence and military ties. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, Russia has long desired to have access to a warm water port. And it seems Gwadar suits them just fine.

Russia and Pakistan weren’t exactly the best of friends during the cold war. But the two nations have made great amends in their bilateral relations in the last two years. Russia is also well aware of Pakistan-India dynamic in the region, and their leadership is quite aware that a closer relationship between Moscow and Islamabad will probably upset India. But it seems like the CPEC offer just might be too tempting for them to refuse.

Russia and Pakistan also share strategic interests in Afghanistan. The so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan can easily spill over into Chechnya. Russia, like Pakistan is also against the presence of United States forces in Afghanistan. These shared interests give Pakistan the opportunity to strengthen its position by forging an alliance with another nuclear power and to counterbalance India’s growing influence in the region, specifically after the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between India and the US, which seems to have made India the US’s linchpin in Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Indian access to US weapons and support for Indian naval operationsis an alarming development for Pakistan. This isn’t to say Pakistan shouldn’t maintain its relations with the US. Pakistan’s shift to strengthen its alliances with China and Russia shouldn’t come at the cost of Pakistan-US relations. The objective is simply to counterbalance India’s hegemony in the region.

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