On May 1, 2018, Moscow and Islamabad are going to mark a long date in the history of their relations: 70 years ago, on May 1, 1948, the USSR and Pakistan established bilateral diplomatic relations. In recent years, Pakistani-Russian relations have been characterized by a rapid upsurge in various areas – both in a bilateral format and within the framework of the international structure – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which Pakistan entered as a full member in June 2017.
Islamabad has vigorously integrated into the practical activities of this large SCO and with great dedication works on its broad agenda, including on security issues in the region. A diverse and positive cooperation with Islamabad has a prominent place in the system of foreign policy priorities of the Russian Federation. This is not and cannot be any doubted. Good results are provided by the interaction of Russian and Pakistani diplomats within the UN and other multilateral organizations. It is of fundamental importance that the national positions of our two states on many issues on the international agenda are close or coincide.
Leaders of Russia and Pakistan of various levels meet regularly and exchange views on key issues of the regional situation and bilateral relations. The Russian and Pakistani leaders have consistently reaffirmed their positive and long-term commitment to continue their joint efforts to expand constructive dialogue, ensure stability and security in the Eurasian space. The conversations of the parties are substantive and partner-like.
The official visit of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to Russia in May 2011 marked a new milestone in the development of our ties. It is known that Islamabad would like to see a return visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There is no doubt that his official trip to Pakistan would further strengthen the fruitful Russian-Pakistani cooperation.
Energy cooperation is a good prospect, which is one of the priority directions of the two states. The flagship project is the construction of the North-South gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement of 2015. Other opportunities are also under consideration, including the supply of liquefied natural gas to Pakistan through the Russian public joint-stock company Gazprom, the construction of regional pipelines, including the Iran-Pakistan-India offshore gas pipeline.
Moscow recognizes the high role of Islamabad in regional and international politics, its significant influence in the Muslim world and its strategic position in Asia and the Indian Ocean Region. Russia and Pakistan are facing similar problems and threats to national security in the form of terrorism and external interference into their internal affairs, which have recently acquired a new dimension. Russia and Pakistan actively cooperate in multilateral organizations. Our countries have close positions on a wide range of international issues, including the peaceful settlement of conflicts, the formation of a multipolar world order, the strengthening of the central role of the United Nations, the establishment of the principles of international law in relations between states.
Both states have coinciding or close positions on Middle Eastern affairs, in particular, on Syria and on other regional, international topics that are of mutual interest. Both sides regularly analyze the situation around the Syrian settlement, the Syrian “chemical dossier”, at which some countries, unfortunately, try to speculate in unscrupulous, if not direct, aggressive purposes. The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan express concern over the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and believe that this problem must be solved on the basis of the resolutions of both the UN Security Council and the “Arab Peace Initiative”, which was supported by all members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Moscow and Islamabad pay special attention to the situation in Afghanistan and around it, show mutual concern about the degradation of the security situation in this country, the growth of terrorist activity, the narcotic threat and the strengthening of the positions of the quasi-caliphate “Islamic State” in the north and east of the Afghan state. Russia and Pakistan proceed from the need to launch the process of national reconciliation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as soon as possible, with the leading role of the Afghans themselves and taking into account the interests of the states of the region, especially those located close to Afghanistan.
The Russian-Pakistani Consultative Group on Strategic Stability meets regularly to discuss in its course a whole range of topical issues related to arms control, arms limitation and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In the process of a businesslike and constructive exchange of views at such meetings, the parties invariably confirm the mutual spirit of expanding Russian-Pakistani cooperation in the interests of ensuring global and regional strategic stability.
Russia, with the support of a number of states, initiated resolutions at the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly calling for commitments not to be the first to deploy any types of weapon in outer space. Such a political commitment, being one of the forms of interstate transparency and mutual trust, is currently the most effective and really working measure, the implementation of which will help prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space, which is the common heritage of mankind. Pakistan positively took this initiative, becoming a co-author of the relevant resolution of the UN General Assembly.
Russia has reacted very positively to Islamabad’s statement that it will not impose any unilateral sanctions against Russia, especially when such sanctions are politically motivated. Moscow also drew attention to the balanced view of the Pakistani side on the “Salisbury incident” related to attempts by certain individuals to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal y in early March in this city, as well as the “chemical show” staged by terrorist groups in the Syrian city of Douma near Damascus in early April this year, which was used by the United States, Britain and France to carry out a triple missile aggression against sovereign Syria. Pakistan rightly believes that such “incidents” must be thoroughly investigated in accordance with the provisions and procedures set forth in the international Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
In recent years, bilateral meetings have helped build up contacts between the Armed Forces of Russia and Pakistan in such areas as joint exercises of the ground forces and naval forces, as well as strengthening ties through the general staffs. A notable phenomenon in the relations between our two states was the joint Russian-Pakistani tactical and military exercises held under the motto “Friendship.”
In 2016-2017, several such exercises have already taken place. They were organized both on Russian and in Pakistani territory. It is noteworthy that both sides intend to continue carrying out such exercises in 2018 and in subsequent years. In their process, skills of cooperation in the conduct of anti-terrorist operations, including in mountainous conditions, are developed. Russia and other states welcomed the connection of Pakistan to the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Moscow has brought to the Pakistani side the initiative to create on the basis of the RATS a universal Center to counter contemporary challenges and threats, including the fight against drug trafficking, which directly finances terrorism.
Russia reaffirms its readiness to continue to contribute to strengthening the counter-terrorism potential of Pakistan, which is in the interests of the countries of the whole region, supports its attitude to actively counter terrorism and extremism, and in this context will provide practical assistance to the Pakistani side in building up the counter-terrorism capabilities.
Between Russia and Pakistan, military-technical cooperation is expanding, which strengthens its Armed Forces. This is facilitated by the Agreement on Cooperation in the Defense Sphere between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Russian Federation, which was signed in Islamabad during the visit of the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in November 2014. A commission for military-technical cooperation is being formed to develop the intergovernmental agreement signed in 2017 in this sphere. In particular, Islamabad shows interest in Russian air defense systems, tanks T-90, and electronic equipment. Moscow has already delivered to the Pakistan party a batch of Mi-35M helicopters.
The Russian military leadership is grateful to Islamabad for its regular participation in the Moscow Conference on International Security, which is annually held by the Russian Defense Ministry. This forum has already established itself as a platform for an open professional dialogue on the widest range of contemporary military and political issues. Scientific contacts between higher educational establishments and research institutes of Russia and Pakistan are developing fruitfully. Some of them have already signed relevant Memorandums of Understanding with similar Russian structures.
In a message on the occasion of the election of Vladimir Putin for the new term by the President of Russia, the President of Pakistan Mamnun Hussein and the Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Hagan Abbasi noted that Pakistan and Russia maintain close, friendly and cooperative relations. Our relations are characterized by mutual trust and convergence of opinions on important international and regional issues. Their congratulations also say that the leadership of Pakistan hopes for close cooperation with the leadership of the Russian Federation in order to further strengthen ed cooperation in all areas of mutual interest. The same hope is nourished in Moscow.
So, on their seventieth anniversary, Russian-Pakistani relations entered a stage of dynamic development and with positive prospects. “Our relations with Pakistan are constructive and mutually beneficial,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif in February 2018 in Moscow. Such a line should remain unchanged, as it meets the long-term strategic interests of our two friendly states.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.