Thursday, April 24, 2014


Gandhara

Pakistan, Russia Make Nice

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
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Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
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Lingering Cold War animosities between Russia and Pakistan seem to be residing, with both regional heavyweights looking to improve bilateral relations.

A sign of the warming ties came in the form of a landmark announcement this week by Pakistan's National Security Committee, which, for the first time, named the strengthening of the country's relations with Russia as one of its top foreign policy recommendations.

The recommendation, which was swiftly approved by the Pakistani parliament, signified growing support for closer ties between Moscow and Islamabad.

But it did not stop there. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit confirmed that Vladimir Putin, early in his third term as president, plans to travel to Islamabad for high-level talks in September -- a first for a Russian head of state.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari paved the road for Putin's visit, which has not been confirmed by Russian officials, last year when he made the first official visit of a Pakistani head of state to Moscow in almost 40 years.

Not long ago, such occasions would have been unthinkable. Russia's staunch support for Pakistan's arch-rival, India, was a thorn in relations. So, too, was Pakistan's support for Afghan mujahedin rebel groups who fought the Soviet Union during its 10-year occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But much has changed since then in South Asian politics.

Relations between long-term allies Pakistan and the United States have hit a low. The U.S.'s decision in May 2011 to enter Pakistan to conduct a raid on Osama bin Laden's compound without informing that country's authorities caused outrage, as did the deaths of over 28 soldiers in a U.S. drone attack in November that led Pakistan to close all its Afghan supply routes to NATO.

Some observers have been quick to point out a strategic shift in Pakistan's foreign policy toward the United States, while others insist that ties between Moscow and Islamabad have deepened as a result of Pakistan's widening rifts with Washington.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan, however, does not read too much into the situation.

"Possibly relations with Russia will strengthen a [little bit] after Putin's visit. [Pakistan] should have strengthened its relations with Russia long ago," Mohmand says. "This visit will likely increase trade, political contacts, but it does not mean that it can bring about change to Pakistan's foreign policy vis-a-vis the United States."

One particular source of concern for Pakistan has been the burgeoning relationship between India, Pakistan's neighbor and main rival, and the United States.

In recent years, India and the United States have held joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean, while a multibillion-dollar defense deal is on the cards as part of the new booming strategic relationship.

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's former foreign minister, says Russia may be forging stronger ties with Pakistan in order to capitalize on the rift in U.S.-Pakistan ties.

"As you know, India's relations had expanded with the United States, although it [India] had good ties with Russia," Aziz says. "It is no longer like the Cold War, obviously Russia is watching the Pakistan-U.S. tension and [might be thinking of restoring] some balance."

Whether or not Russia and Pakistan might become strategic partners is open to debate. But what is certain is that the two countries are aiming to forge greater economic ties, especially in the field of energy.

Russia has indicated its willingness to get involved in the proposed TAPI pipeline project that is envisioned to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and on to Pakistan and India.

The pipeline, if built, could bring much needed gas to energy-starved India and Pakistan.

Russian investors are also interested in the Thar coal project in Sindh Province, which would involve developing a large energy complex with a capacity of producing 6,000 megawatts of coal-based electricity.

-- Frud Bezhan and Monawar Shah
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 14, 2012 15:30
Excellent news for both Pakistan and Russia! The only reason the relations between the two were not intensive enough in the past consists in the excessive influence that the US used to have in the South-Asian country in question.
Now that the US (a) are going bankrupt and (b) have demonstrated their complete inability to influence the situation in Afghanistan, the Pakistani authorities are quite rightly considering widening their foreign policy options - and closer cooperation with Russia on such topics as the construction of a pipleline from Iran to Pakistan with the (potential) support of the Russian Transneft could only benefit all the participants and further contribute to peace and economic development in South-Asia.

by: Jack from: US
April 14, 2012 16:48
Everyone just wants US and its NATO minions OUT for good. In every place of the world where US government messed in, were it Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Lybia, Syria, death and destruction and persistent hate is the only legacy of US involvement. The same is inside USA itself. Where US government meddles in, pitching one race against another, hate and fear is the only result. Why does US government do it? Because US government wants to instill fear and insecurity everywhere, so people will be afraid to raise their voice, so that people will need Big Brother "protection". Watching Americans here, I see everyone is panically scared of the government.

by: ashoka kanishka from: Hind
April 17, 2012 04:36
Yes Good news the very thing responsible for debacle of the Mighty Soviets , the Russians want to have a partnership.

But they undermine the fact that Russia is still the enemy of Extremist Islamic Movements ,

Colour does not matter whether "RED" or "WHITE-BLUE-RED"
a true friendship can be forged by seceding RUSSIAN territories where islam has major following.

Its highly unstable to do business with , as far as arms deals concerned they will buy it and that would be used by terrorist organisations may even land up in Russian controlled areas.

If the All time Friend America gets tortured experience what the Russians can get is crystal clear.

Recent attacks in Kabul shows that Russia (its embassy was attacked) is still the enemy of extremist islamic organisations and hence of ISI.
In Response

by: Mjaff from: Pakistab
April 17, 2012 11:52
You are an Indian. So yor comments for Pakistan covers Indian interests.
In Response

by: ashoka kanishka from: Hind
April 18, 2012 03:25
Yes I am from Hind , but the fact is that Russia and Pakistan cannot be friends ever reason is conflict of interest.

If you ask any person in Pakistan about Chechenya or Dagestan or Inguish even Tatarstan.
Despite of difference of ethnicity unanimously the will answer in the manner as expected .

The fact where I belong is immaterial , If truth is there has to be accepted , If wrong could be corrected , its healthy to have difference of opinion and non-violent means should be used to articulate one's view.

Extremism has no face as there are all sought of religious fanatics which do not have humanity.

About Gandhara

Gandhara is a blog dedicated to Afghanistan and Pakistan written by RFE/RL journalists from Radio Mashaal (Pakistan), Radio Azadi (Afghanistan), our Central Newsroom, and other services. Here, our people on the ground will provide context, analysis, and some opinions on news from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Send comments or questions to gandhara [at] rferl.org.