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BY Our Analyst After decades of frosty ties, Russia has finally begun to reach out to Pakistan. Economic, political and even defense ties are growing between the two countries that were on opposing camps during the Cold War. This would go down as one of the worst strategic and diplomatic failures of India in recent times. Russia has stepped up its rapprochement with India’s arch-rival Pakistan just as India is getting closer to the United States. The defence pact scripts a new history as Russia agreed to cooperate with Pakistan in combating terrorism and offered advanced counter-terrorism training to Pakistan. The landmark Russia-Pakistan defence pact was inked during Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Pakistan, the first visit by a Russian Defence Minister to Pakistan in 45 years. The last visit to Pakistan was made by Soviet Union’s defence minister Andrey Grechko. The increasing bonhomie between Russia and Pakistan marks a stunning change in the rapidly changing and evolving international statecraft. It lives up to the old adage: There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics; there are only permanent interests. The Russians had already warned of decaying ties with India way back in June when they lifted their embargo on arms supplies to Pakistan and began negotiations for sale of combat helicopters to Pakistan. Despite India’s strong protests the Russians are moving ahead with the proposed chopper sales to Pakistan and at least 20 attack helicopters are all set to be sold by the Russians to the Pakistanis. There are some analysts, who think that the overtures between Russia and Pakistan are born out of both countries' close ties with China. Russia is now closer to China than to any other country because of their converging views on global governance and strategic issues bolstered by robust economic and military ties. For China, Pakistan has been its ‘all weather friend’, ‘a brother’. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on a recent visit to China described the Sino-Pakistan friendship as being higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest sea in the world, and sweeter than honey. Thus, the current rapprochement between Moscow and Islamabad could also have to do with China's desire to bring its two closest partners together. Given the economic problems in both Russia and Pakistan, both countries desire to benefit from Chinese investments. For instance, the pipeline between Karachi and Lahore might require investments from China. Russia also aims to benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is therefore willing to help in efforts to stabilise Pakistan. If indeed China has been prodding Russia and Pakistan to improve their bilateral relations, the question is: What is China's endgame? Does it hope to build a Russia-China-Pakistan bloc in Eurasia against the US and India? A bigger question is does India need to be worried or concerned over all these developments? Significantly, India's Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar has recently expressed concern about the proposed sales of high-end military equipment to Pakistan and joint military exercises with it. There are analysts who strongly believe that Pakistan cannot replace or even influence Russia’s strategic partnership with India. This is just impossible. Russia's priorities are very clear. No matter how long New Delhi will enjoy its ‘honeymoon’ in relations with Washington, or Russia will enjoy its new found friendship with Pakistan, both India and Russia understand that their ties cannot be influenced by any third parties. In fact, this section of analysts believe that Russia having better ties with Pakistan will ultimately also benefit India. Russia also believes that expansion of Russian Pakistani relations will contribute to the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. It also seems unlikely that the Russia-Pakistan rapprochement can develop into a true strategic partnership. The historical memory of ties with India is too strong and Russia will also face a pushback from both the US and China in its attempts to woo Pakistan. However, it is expected that there will be a period of much more intensive and extensive interaction in various fields between the two countries. In fact, if Russia improves its leverage over Pakistan, it might be able to persuade Pakistan not to act against India and to play a constructive role in Afghanistan. This would be in India's interests, as it also wants a stable Afghanistan. However, if Russia does go ahead with deepening its military ties with Pakistan and gets more aggressive in selling defence equipment to Pakistan, this could prove detrimental to the growth of Indo-Russian ties. The Indian side has started to realise that Russia's interest in Pakistan today can be primarily attributed to the latter's strategic location next to Afghanistan and, by extension, Central Asia. Though the two countries do not share borders, they share the same geopolitical space. Russia has long regarded Pakistan as the 'troublemaker' in the region because of its alleged patronage of terrorist networks. One of its objectives is therefore to Wholesale Dolls convince Pakistan to moderate the Taliban and to subdue radical Islamic forces within Pakistan. It believes that Pakistan has the capacity to considerably rein in the Taliban and other Islamic militant movements in the region, which it sees as critical for its own security. Moreover, as Pakistan is a large and influential Muslim country and Russia has a large Muslim population of its own, Moscow sees benefit in improved bilateral relations. Russia regards Pakistan to be a necessary part of any long-term solution in Afghanistan; it is key to a stable Afghanistan. With China endorsing a Pakistani role in deciding Afghanistan's future, Russia sees little scope for opposing Pakistan's role in Afghanistan. Russia wants a land route, which will give it access to the warm-water ports in the Arabian 9 Sea: Pakistan is best placed to meet such demand. This could also open up new opportunities for the landlocked countries of Central Asia. Finally, Russia's overtures to Pakistan could be part of its strategy to develop new partnerships. Since the Ukraine crisis, Russia has been isolated in the international sphere and has few friends left. In fact, one driving imperative of Russian foreign policy in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis is now to reach out to new friends and partners who can help it challenge the West. Russia is also hunting for new defence and energy markets because of sanctions and isolation by the West. All said and done, India will always play a very special role in Russia's foreign policy and Russia is very much interested in keeping the strategic level of its ties with India. While fears of a China-Russia-Pakistan axis and subsequent geostrategic encirclement of India may be overblown, India must remain alert to ward off any such possibility. It should do this by deepening and broadening its relationships with all three countries involved, as well as the US. However, there should not be any doubt about the leverage India has with Russia. Even if Pakistan turns out to be a big importer of Russian defence equipment, it can never be of the same size as the Indian market. Neither does it have the finances to buy massive quantities from Russia. Even though Russia has lost out on a few major contracts in recent times, it remains home decor ideas one of India's major arms suppliers3India still buys around $2 billion worth of military equipment from Russia every year. The two countries also share deep historical ties and India was one of the few countries, which did not openly criticise Russia over its policies in Ukraine and Crimea. The two countries are also partners in several multilateral forums like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), RIC (Russia, India and China), and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization).
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Post Time : 21st September 2016, 06:44:55 am