Very little is known to the Pakistani public about the depth and breadth of Pak-Russia relations. Spectrum of this relationship is very wide on the canvas that is deprived of the proper colours to complete the picture. One can only blame the media and the bureaucracy of Pakistan for this sorry state of affairs. Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that the field is wide open for both countries to expand these relations to any level. All that it needs is for Pakistan in particular to identify its immediate and long-term requirements and work on those with heads down.
Six decades of Pak-Russia relations have observed various bumps and bruises but still both countries, out of odds, managed to develop a congeniality of relations after the dawn of 21st century and tumultuous events of 9/11. After over these years now both states have realized that the prism of distrust through which they view each other is murky and it must be removed.
Pak-Russia relations have been marred by historical legacies, overemphasized western dependence and Pakistan’s India-centric approach. There have been many ups and downs in the history of their relations but most of the times they have perceived each other in negative mindset; Pakistan through the prism of western perception and the Soviets through the Indian eyes.
After the Soviet disintegration in 1991 and in the post Cold War era, both Pakistan and Russia realized their past mistakes and initiated a process of forging closer relations based on new strategic realities. However in the post 9/11 scenario, with Pakistan becoming part of the â€œglobal war on terror,â€ and abandoning its support for the Taliban rule, mutual trust between Pakistan and Russia improved and bilateral high level contacts picked up frequency as they saw their strategic and economic interests converging to a common point.
Russian Federation is reasserting its role in its immediate sphere of influence and beyond, and Pakistan is looking for new avenues of opportunities in the face of US withdrawal from the region. Therefore, both have geopolitical and strategic compulsions to improve their relations. Both envisage a role for themselves in achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan and economic cooperation in Central Asia. While Pakistan needs Russian investment for reviving its economy, Russia also eyes Pakistan as a good destination for its investments and trade, with India getting closer to the US and Europe in its place. It is in this light that the recent progress in Pak-Russian relations is being seen.
Pak-Russian relations have often been under-rated, despite strong potentials, mainly due to misperceived notions and mindsets. There have been many opportunities to improve their relations but were lost due to different approaches to regional and global security perceptions. Indeed, if viewed from a realist’s perspective, most of misperceptions between Pakistan and Russia can be attributed to a strong US influence on Pakistan, for the ultimate promotion of its own (US) strategic objectives. Previously, with the desire to promote cordial bilateral relationship, Soviet Union, installed a steel mill in Karachi, indeed, a huge project for boosting the Pakistani economy.
Pakistan should now ‘redirect’ its foreign policy. It should come out of its past misperceptions and make a fresh start. It is the need of the time that Pakistan must take an earnest and eager effort to improve relations with Russia as Russia is a former superpower and currently a major regional and world power as a permanent member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) having the veto right. It is a leading member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In view of these strong credentials, Pakistan must forge stronger ties with Russia. With Russia as a new friend, Pakistan stands to gain in all areas: Connecting Russia and CARs to Gwadar Port and developing the new Silk Roadâ€”as proposed by the US, â€” will result in an economic turnaround for Pakistan.
Moreover Russian ties can help Pakistan in harnessing better relations with India through resolution of disputes. In that respect, one recalls Moscow’s role in brokering the Tashkent Pact which ended the 1965 war impasse between the contenders.
There already is evolving a strategic partnership between China and Russia for the promotion of regional peace and in order to undo the global hegemony of an outside power. Apart from its close cooperation with China, Pakistan seeks Russian economic assistance in the form of foreign direct investment and technological cooperation particularly in the energy field. Russia seems inclined to responding to these needs in addition to increasing trade volume from current $600 million to $1 billion in next decade.
Indeed, Russia and Pakistan have many common interests and objectives like, regional security and stability and countering threats of terrorism and extremism in all forms and manifestations. Besides, controlling illicit arms trade, drug trafficking, money laundering, cross-border organized crime. Indeed, despite tumult in the past relationship of Pakistan and Russia, there are opportunities. There is a solid foundation for constructing a multi-storey building of Russia-Pakistan relations. All we need to do is, to exploit these opportunities for the common good. Both countries have strong potential to improve their relations in the fast-changing regional and global security environment but it depends how both countries utilize the new opportunities knocking their doors.
1. Soviet relations with Pakistan date back to 1922 after the Bolshevik Revolution.
2. From 1922-27, people who entered from Soviet Union into territory (now Pakistan) held by British Indian Empire, attempted to start a communist revolution against the British Empire.
3. This series of coups is known as Peshawar Conspiracy Cases.
4. Joseph Stalin and officials at Moscow did not send any congratulatory message to Governor-General Jinnahâ€” the founder of Pakistan.
5. First foreign minister of Pakistan Sir Zafrullah Khan wrote a letter to the then deputy foreign minister of USSR Andrei Gromyko to establish bilateral relations.
6. Gromyko accepted the invitation on 24th April, 1948.
7. The Soviet Union and Pakistan first established the diplomatic and bilateral relations on 1st May 1948.
8. Pakistan’s first Ambassador Plenipotentiary Shuaib Qureshi presented his credentials to the President of USSR on 31st December, 1949.
9. Soviet Union was the first country to extend formal invitation to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.
10. In December 1949, it was announced that the prime minister would visit the US in May 1950.
11. In 1950, Soviet Union and Pakistan established the multi-billion dollar worth Pakistan-Soviet Oil Fields later renamed as Pakistan Oilfields.
12. During 1954-58, the relations were strained and hostility against each other rose.
13. In 1954, Pakistan became a member of SEATO and CENTO in 1955, which Soviet Union did not welcome.
14. In Marchâ€“April 1954, a delegation of the Soviet cultural troupe toured Pakistan and a festival of the Soviet films was held in Karachi.
15. First Pakistan-USSR Bilateral Trade Agreement was signed on 27th June, 1956.
16. In 1958, Pakistan and Soviet Union finally established an oil consortium, Pakistan Oilfields, and expressing interests in establishing the country’s first steel mills.
17. In 1959, Ayub Khan permitted the flights of reconnaissance and covert surveillance flights of U-2, giving the authorization of final U-2 flight, piloted by USAF Captain Francis Gary Powers.
18. The U-2 incident severely compromised Pakistan security and jeopardized relations between the Soviet Union and Pakistan.
19. Mehmood Arshad Hussain presented himself as the second Ambassador of Pakistan to Russia on 5th October, 1961.
20. Soviet Union paid back its revenge on Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, as it emerged as the biggest supplier of military hardware to India.
21. President Ayub Khan first visited Russia on April 5, 1965.
22. As the result of President Khan’s visit to the Soviet Union, both countries concluded another agreement for cultural exchanges that was signed on 5 June 1965.
23. President Ayub Khan and Indian premier Lal Bahadur Shastri signed the historic â€œTashkent Declarationâ€ on 6th January, 1966 after Soviet mediation.
24. The foreign ministers of Russia and Pakistan signed the agreement for opening of Russian Consulates in Karachi and Dhaka (presently capital of Bangladesh) on 7th June, 1966.
25. On 17 April 1968, Premier Alexei Kosygin paid a visit to Pakistan and was welcomed by President Ayub and civil society members.
26. During the time of Kosygin’s reception, renowned poet Hafeez Jullundhri, sang out a poem, comparing Kosygin’s visit to the coming of the dawn, which would bring self-determination and justice to the Kashmiri people.
27. In 1969, the Pakistan Government employed â€œV/o Tyaz Promexportâ€, a USSR technical consortium, for vertically integrated steel mills in Karachi.
28. Later, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto succeeded to bring full-scale Soviet investment in this project, and laid the foundations of the steel mills in 1972.
29. In 1972, the West-Pakistan Parliament passed the resolution which called for establishing ties with Soviet Union.
30. Both countries signed an agreement on 22nd January, 1972, to provide economic and technological assistance to enable Pakistan to set up Pakistan Steel Mills in Sindh.
31. The foundation stone for Pakistan Steel Mills was laid on 30 December 1973 by the then Prime minister Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
32. In 1974, Bhutto paid a state visit to Soviet Union, becoming the first prime minister since Pakistan’s independence to visit the country.
33. In 1980, the relationship took a dangerous turn, when Soviet press notable “Pravda” and other Soviet commentators, began to issue threatening statements towards Pakistan.
34. In November 1982, General Zia travelled to the Soviet Union to attend the funeral of Leonid Brezhnev, then-General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
35. Soviet President Andrei Gromyko and the new Secretary-General Yuri Andropov met with Zia. Their a brief meeting took place at the Kremlin.
36. In 1989, Soviet ambassador to Pakistan offered Pakistan to install a commercial nuclear power plant.
37. In 1996, Russia willingly agreed to launch Pakistan’s second satellite, Badr-B, from its Baikonur Cosmodrome for the lowest possible charges.
38. On April 1999 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid an important state visit to Kremlin. This was the first trip to Moscow paid by a Pakistan’s Prime minister in 25 years.
39. On 19 April 2001, the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Losyukov paid a state visit to Pakistan where both countries agreed upon cooperating in economic development, and to work towards peace and prosperity in the region.
40. In 2007, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov paid a 3-day visit to Pakistan.
41. Mr Fradkov was the first Russian prime minister to visit Pakistan in the post Soviet-era in 38 years.
42. In 2011, Russia endorsed Pakistan bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
43. In 2012, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced to pay a state visit to Pakistan soon after his re-election, later he cancelled it, citing other crucial engagements.
44. On 5th August, 2013, Colonel General Vladimir V Chirkin visited Pakistan where he was received by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
45. On June 02, 2014, Russia lifted its embargo on arms supplies to Pakistan and said to hold talks on supplying Pakistan with Russian Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters.