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Russian FM’s visit to Pakistan: Are old players on a new trajectory?

The countries are now shifting from a brief homopolar era, which initially began after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to a multipolar situation, permitting nations to cautiously select new partners or allies and set new strategies.

In this view, Pakistan and Russia have come into a communally beneficial correlation, which is shortly to place tone for regional geopolitics also. From the enemies of the Cold War to friends at present, both Pakistan and Russia have come a long way. The innovative realism of the region and the world are changing, and both nations have understood the revolutionary challenges.

Interestingly, the relations between Pakistan and Russia are viewed differently by the international community because whenever Pakistan attempt to establish ties with Russia, its relations with the United States begin to deteriorate and if Pakistan does the opposite, its relations with Russia are affected.

Despite this, it is hoping that the two countries soon establish new relations as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is arriving in Pakistan today for a two-day visit where he will meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Let’s take a look at the various aspects of Pak-Russia relations.

A brief history of Pak-Russian relations

It has been more than 20 years since the US military was stationed in Afghanistan, which the Afghan Taliban have blamed as the main cause of the civil war and the destruction of peace in the country with India’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Before the United States, the Russian army tried to set foot in Afghanistan, in which Pakistan covertly opposed it and then the Soviet Union disintegrated. Pak-Russia relations have been frozen since the break-up of Russia, probably because Russia blamed Pakistan for its destruction.

Despite several attempts during the 90s, the relations between the two countries did not see much change. Later, General Musharraf visited Moscow in 2003 and then a Prime Ministerial delegation from Russia visited Pakistan in 2008. However, no significant progress was made in these two diplomatic visits.

Three years later, in 2011, President Asif Ali Zardari and the Russian leadership met, after which President Asif Ali Zardari also visited Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Pakistan in 2012 has also no major progress.

Old players on a new trajectory

However, in 2014, Russian policies endured a most important change, permitting Pakistan to purchase weapons from Moscow. Afterward, the first joint military exercise between the two countries was held in 2016, signifying the starting of a new epoch.

Later in 2017, both countries have taken several steps to promote Pak-Russia trade and other bilateral relations. In 2018, the volume of Pak-Russia bilateral trade reached 800 million, which was only 60 million in 2017. In December of the same year, Russia assured Pakistan of its cooperation in several fields.

According to a report by APP news agency, in January 2021, Pakistan’s exports to Russia recorded a significant increase of 7.24 percent and imports 221.95 percent.

Ties essential for broader strategic and trade 

Recently, Russian and Pakistani officials hinted at transforming their rapidly increasing collaboration into a broader strategic partnership. Common interests in Afghanistan have been a key aspect in warming Russo-Pak ties.

For Russia, it is tactically significant to minimize the overflow of terrorism into its border, which could blow potential Russian economic projects in Central Asia.

Russia has also proposed linking the Eurasian Economic Union with the Belt and Road Plan (BRP), which might make sure its entrance to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea all the way through Pakistan.

For Pakistan, geographical requirement makes stability in Afghanistan grave both for security and economic concentrations, such as bolstering an effective environment for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Russia and Pakistan have each been making efforts to mainstream the Taliban and counter Daesh’s regional affiliate, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP).

Though the present deadlock in the U.S.-Taliban negotiations shows a temporary impede and the fact the Afghan peace process serves as the key force behind improved Russo-Pak ties and has previously been a source of cooperation between the US, Pakistan, and Russia.

In fact, in South Asia, Pakistan is a country with distinct geographical importance which makes us stand in a unique position from other countries. Given its geographical importance, Pakistan has become a key player in the Afghan peace process and the war on terror.

Greater stability in Afghanistan could also assist lead the Russo-Pak corporation from a tapered strategic area of assistance to potential longer-term regional cooperation while the visit of a Russian foreign minister to Pakistan after nine years reflected a “new and positive dimension” of bilateral relations.