Russia has come to realize Pakistan’s role in resolving the issues plaguing this region and Pakistan also seems to be contemplating on ways to lessen its reliance on America and to diversify its support base among the powerful states of this region.
Among the initial few calls that Mr Putin received after the victory, one was that of P.M Gillani; this goes on to show the extent to which Pakistani leadership was interested in the outcome of this election. Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s last month visit to Russia was also successful and has a bearing on this positive atmosphere in the mutual relationship. Finally, Russia has come to realize Pakistan’s role in resolving the issues plaguing this region and Pakistan also seems to be contemplating on ways to lessen its reliance on America and to diversify its support base among the powerful states of this region.
At the time of the partition of India, the Soviet Union viewed both India and Pakistan with suspicion but it was more critical of India than Pakistan.The Soviets formally conveyed invitation to Liaquat Ali Khan for a state visit in 1949, but the tour did not materialize due to some considerations from Pakistan, and Liaquat Ali Khan chose to go to Washington instead in May 1950. Pakistan under the U.S influence joined SEATO and CENTO, thus by earning the ire of the USSR. There also happened incidents that added bad taste to already worsened relations like U-2 incident in 1960.
The ice begun to break in relations between Russia and Pakistan in Ayub Khan’s presidency as on March 4, 1961, the Soviet Union signed an agreement on oil exploration with Pakistan. This was Pakistan’s first acceptance of Soviet economic and technical assistance. The period from 1961 to 1971 saw ups and downs in Russo-Pakistan relations till the debacle of Bangladesh in which the Russians clearly sided with the Indians. Soon afterwards, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on assuming the reins of Pakistan as the PM took Pakistan out of alliances like SEATO and CENTO. Now that the impediments towards good relations were removed, both the countries undertook initiatives for a harmonious relationship. Pakistan and the USSR signed an agreement under which the Soviet granted technical and financial assistance for the construction of steel mill at Karachi which had the capacity of producing 2 million tons of steel per annum. The Soviet provided assistance in oil and gas exploration, and several power projects, including Guddu.
When the USSR disintegrated, Pakistan recognized Russian Federation on 20 December, 1991, as successor to the Soviet Union. The period of Taliban in Afghanistan was a timely aberration when the relations again touched a low. But when Pakistan joined the international fight against terrorism in the wake of 9/11 incidents, Russia resolved to support Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism.
The recent historic low in Pak-US relations, according to some analysts has also been a cause of Pakistan’s turning towards Russia. America’s incessant blame game and defamation of Pakistan’s army and intelligence agencies, coupled with US adage of do more against the militancy have seemingly turned Pakisan away from the US and towards Russia. But the recent urgency of Pakistan towards Russia may be because of May 2, 2011 US commando action that killed Osama Bin Laden which brought embarrassment to Pakistan and saw its sovereignty violated. The continual drone attacks, the incident of 26th November at Mohmand agency that saw the killing of 24 troops by the US gunship helicopters. Pakistan took a tough stand on this and cut off NATO supplies through its land, got vacated Shamsi Airbase from the US air force, boycotted second Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan. All this has contributed to this new strain in Pakistan’s foreign policy. Russia also strokes the right chord when their foreign minister on 28th of November 2011, said that hunting terrorists cannot be a pretext for violating the sovereignty of a country.
Russia is being considered as a resurgent economic and military power which believes in multi-polarity, it simply wants to forestall American moves of hegemony in this region. Russia also thinks that Pakistan’s role in the solution of Afghan Problem is crucial. Russia and Pakistan, in the recent meeting between the foreign ministers of the both countries, reaffirmed this contention that Afghan led and Afghan owned efforts for national reconciliation are necessary, so both are at the same page on this issue.
As per the words of Tanvir Ahmad Khan, a former Pakistani foreign secretary and once Pakistan’s ambassador at Moscow, both countries are on the verge of ending a long history of estrangement. But there have been external influences for this recent engagement between them. Nonetheless, both the countries also realize each other’s centrality towards solution of the long standing issues in the region. The relations have grown to such a stage that there seems to be no going back and in the changed world like that of today the traditional rivalries of ideology have softened down. In the course of 64 years of Pakistan’s independence, many opportunities of friendship and partnership with USSR have been missed and none of the countries can afford to miss yet another opportunity. This time around both seem to have realized it and both will make good of this opportunity.