Pakistan Army chief visits Russia: Moscow courtship of Islamabad guided by concerns about New Delhi and Washington

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Jawed Bajwa is in Moscow to meet Russian military and defence officials. General Bajwa's visit follows a flurry of earlier visits to Moscow by Pakistani officials, at a time when Islamabad finds itself on back foot as the US has left no stone unturned to counter Pakistan: Be it at the Financial Action Task Force grey listing or putting the focus of the United Nations on the militant safe havens in Pakistan.

Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa arrives in Russia

Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. PTI

Russia too finds itself at odds with the United States, for the former's alleged meddling in the 2016 American presidential election and chemical attack in the UK. With relations of both countries with the United States at its nadir, it appears that joining hands is the best way for Moscow and Islamabad.

After receiving many brickbats over their dubious behaviour on counter-terrorism front, Pakistani officials are obviously looking at some kind of endorsement from a major power like Russia. And as expected, Inter-Services Public Relations handouts of Bajwa’s visit highlight how Russia has commended Pakistan's sacrifices in 'war on terror'.

But self-praise aside, Pakistani officials would be naïve to believe that their growing proximity with Russia is a function of their country being an attractive partner for Moscow. Rather, it is the other way round. While in West Asia, Russia and its proxies may have made matters difficult for the US and its allies, in South Asia, Russia finds itself increasingly in a precarious position: What with India’s growing proximity with the US, formation of 'Quad' alliance and a junior position in alliance with China.

More importantly, the biggest casualty of India’s strategic alignment with the US has been the Russian defence companies, which are finding it difficult to compete with American and European companies in the attractive Indian defence market. India’s weariness to join hands with Russian companies is set to increase after major Russian defence companies find themselves on the American sanctions list.

Take the example of the eagerly awaited deal between India and Russia for the purchase of S400 missile system: The deal is being negotiated for the last two years without any substantial progress.

It is in these circumstances that Russia finds itself joining hands with Pakistan: Not the best of the options given Pakistan's international isolation. So even as Russia pursues this engagement with Pakistan, Moscow is fully aware of the pitfalls of hobnobbing with an international pariah. Therefore, in all likelihood this Russia-Pakistani bonhomie will be a temporary affair, with a full throttle effort from Russia to woo India, which despite its proximity with the US shares a common sentiment with Russia on many issues.

 


Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 20:26 PM

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