Russian moves to improve relations with Pakistan to complicate its South Asian strategy? How Russia can mange relations with Pakistan keeping time-tested privileged partnership with India? Russian moves are tactical in nature or following a comprehensive strategy to deal with two rival neighbors? Russia requires a policy for South Asia region as whole? What would be Russian policy options if a war like situation emerges between the South Asian rivals. The Russian official statements don’t reveal any comprehensive strategy for South Asia, which could cover all these conflicting questions. 

Historically, during decades South Asia was the place for political and military disputes of many countries, due to its important strategic location which is close to rich oil Persian Gulf. Unique situation which bring conflict nowadays in the neighboring nuclear bomb carrying countries: China, Pakistan and India. This is triangle of the oldest civilizations in the world with different culture and traditions. Among this three countries Pakistan takes special part. If any country will get strong influence on Islamabad it means that this country will be able to control Afghanistan, Middle East and Persian Gulf.

Hence, from the side of China and India, Pakistan is time bomb neighbor but it has influential state for fate and fortunes in the region. Unsolved border problems within India and Pakistan, India and China were the reason for large scale bilateral conflicts (1947-1949; 1965; 1971; 1999 between India and Pakistan); (1959; 1962 between India and China). Meanwhile hot phase of conflicts has been passed, but there is always opportunity that it might happen again with double force.

For now Russia did few careful steps towards Islamabad. Russian-Pakistani renaissance started in 2014 when the Kremlin removed its arms embargo against Islamabad. Nonetheless, the facade of the relations between Russia and Pakistan looks impressive. Moscow and Islamabad clearly intend to deepen military cooperation and trade, and to improve political, military, and security dialogue. This intention should be supported, since improving relations between Russia and Pakistan is one of ways to end legacies of the Cold War, and to make contribution to a new world order. 

In geopolitics, Moscow and Islamabad would appear to share a great deal in common. With Asia-Pacific becoming more and more important as a venue for future economic growth, the long-time allies should do more to coordinate their efforts in this part of the world.  For an external observer these moves of Moscow in the region look like separate tactical actions. And what is the most worrisome is that these actions of Moscow may be motivated by external reasons, not directly rooted to the South Asian countries.

Traditionally Russia (USSR) was playing major role in South Asia, especially had tight political and cultural relations with India. As for now, in the South Asia region situation is changing rapidly, stalemate between Pakistan and India can escalate the conflict between two countries. Nevertheless, huge responsibility lies with India and Pakistan wherein millions lives are at stake. Taking in attention this facts the only country which can stabilize the tension and find new ways of solving the dispute can be Russia.

If promising opportunities for a new level of Russia’s cooperation with Pakistan will be opened in 2017 after this nation will become a member-state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) along with India. India is also a promising market for one of Russia’s most successful ventures – building nuclear power plants. Rosatom, the state-owned nuclear power company, is now building more than 20 reactors in different locations around the world. It recently inaugurated its second reactor at Kudankulam in southern India. Two other reactors are under construction at the same location. Both projects help India achieve its goal of further diversifying its energy sources.

Russia also sees India as a continuing but growing market for its armaments. Over the past few years, Russia has lost some of its longtime arms sales markets — but not India. Russia is, however, afraid that India continues to improve friendships with Israel and the United States, both formidable arms purveyors, which could drastically cut into a market that is critical in helping to keep Russian unemployment numbers low. New Delhi’s continued use of Russian small and large weaponry – including aircraft carriers, submarines and fighter planes – means stability within the Indian military. During Putin’s recent visit to India, several defense pacts were signed, including a joint venture between Hindustan Aeronautics and Russia’s state-owned weapons producer Rosoboronexport to build 200 Kamov 226t helicopters. Russia has also agreed to build S-400 surface-to-air missiles and stealth frigates for the Indian navy.

Therefore, Delhi and Islamabad should concentrate on resolving there reveries under Russia observation, and should bring under their economic and military protection other South Asian countries. Russia can balance between India and Pakistan for larger stability in the region, as well as restore the rules-based order that is being put at risk with ongoing territorial disputes. Russia has under-invested in the region for too long, and now is the time to make the best of the opportunities available. Russia is becoming strategic partner in South Asia region due to it powerful diplomacy and lack of professionalism from USA and China whose perspectives are taking over a reality check.

Year, 2016 is marked as the darkest year in the history of Kashmir as latest brutal violence echoed in the territory. A massive uprising has occurred against the use of guns, murders, mysterious disappearances, false encounters and other human rights violations by Indian army stationed in Kashmir. Kashmir uprising, terror attacks in India and Pakistan blamed each other boarder escalation could  be drastic if any of the country breaks restrain. On the other developing relations between India and Pakistan remains on the low level, even though in the beginning of 2015 there was a chance to drawn the ice. Nevertheless two countries are the key states in the South Asian region.

Russia could be a key player in South Asian conflict resolution. Russian have experience in fighting with terrorists and nationalistic groups as we have seen in Syria, Karabakh, Chechnya etc. This experience will be helpful in absolute containment of Taliban in north Pakistan. Nevertheless, China and USA may not agree to see Russia in the region as a pillar of stability, due to their own perspectives for U.S. as a control of growing production of India for China and Pakistan’s fight against terrorism.

Previous articlePalmyra’s Re-Liberation and the “Rojava Civil War”
Next articleHeritage Diplomacy Dilemma
Ivan Kessler is German research scholar at University of Vienna, Austria. His research focus is the territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region. He is also co-author of several scientific articles on maritime territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region. Also cooperate with the Far Eastern Federal University (Russia) for scientific exchange.