RUSSIA APPLAUDS PAKISTAN'S ANTI-TERRORISM EFFORTS
GEN. RAHEEL ARRIVES IN RUSSIA
Pakistan’s relations with former USSR had seen many ups and downs but could never be termed as friendly as both countries viewed each other in strategically hostile camps. After the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, Russia emerged as a significant Eurasian power comprising 22 autonomous states. Considering her to be legal heir of USSR, Russia seeks a greater political and economic role in the region. With this background, Moscow is making efforts to retain and expand its clout in a friendlier regional setting. Improved relations with Pakistan would be a political plus for Russia. Under prevalent global environment better relations with Russia are in Pakistan’s interest as well.
After the independence, Pakistan informed USSR that Britain would represent her interests in the Soviet Union. Moscow took this diplomatic move contradictory to the ground realities as the Pakistanis not only shared religious ties with Soviet Central Asia, but retained a consciousness of ethnic and historic relations with Central Asian nationalities. Pakistan made first serious move to establish diplomatic relations with USSR in April 1948 and first Pakistani ambassador presented his credentials in Moscow in late December 1949, while his Soviet counterpart arrived in Karachi on 18 March 1950. Despite Pakistan’s less than enthusiastic attitude towards the Soviet Union, Stalin’s government invited Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan for a visit USSR. Ironically Liaquat Ali Khan never visited the Soviet Union; instead he went to the United States, from 3-30 May 1950, and then spent several days in Canada. Thus the first formal fissure occurred in the yet to start relationship. Pakistan’s entry into pro western alliance’s like SEATO, CENTO and bilateral agreement of ‘cooperation’ with the Unites States enhanced this gulf. Emerging Sino-Pakistan relations further reduced the possibilities of any meaningful interaction between USSR and Pakistan. USSR observed in an aide-memoir to the government of Pakistan in 1958 that ‘The Soviet Union is compelled to note with regret that for reasons beyond its control, the relations between the USSR and Pakistan leave much to be desired’. Contrary to Pakistan, India reached all out to develop friendly relations with USSR. Indian ambassador Mrs Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, Nehru’s sister presented her credentials in Moscow on 13 August 1947 one day before formal independence of India and Pakistan was proclaimed. India’s role in the Korean War and her policy of non-alignment in international politics compelled USSR to change her initial perceptions regarding India. In the same back drop, USSR in 1952 indicated that it might favour India’s position on the Kashmir issue. In the later years, India left no opportunity of national development through USSR un availed.
After 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, the relations between Russia and Pakistan showed some signs of improvement as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto understanding the importance of Soviet Union visited Moscow twice within a period of five years. However, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 came up as a major blow to Russo – Pakistan relations. Pakistan, due to its own security concerns, joined hands with USA to evict USSR from Afghanistan. Ultimately USSR had to withdraw from Afghanistan in late eighties. This, coupled with failing economy of the country resulted in disintegration of USSR in 1991.
Pakistan experienced a mixed trend of relations with the post Soviet Russia. A significant policy shift by the Russia was seen when in November 1991 she voted, for the first time, for Pakistan’s proposal of a nuclear-free zone in South Asia. In the same period, Yelstin regime annulled status of India as a special concessional ally. Presently, compelled by emerging realities of unipolar world Russia is looking inwards in the region. Same in view, President General Musharraf was invited by Russia for a visit in February 2003. The visit can be termed as successful at lest in thawing the ice of former Soviet era.
Immediately after the incident of 9/11, USA embarked upon Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) and launched a massive air and ground operation code named “Enduring Freedom” against Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite many odds, Pakistan guided by its national interests, supported US against Taliban. In return, Pakistan got notion of relevance to only super power, status of a major non NATO ally and front line state against terrorism in the region. This enhanced Pakistan’s relevance in world affairs, though with an apprehension of being left alone once USA’s focus shifts from terrorism to other interests.
Russia is in the process of a historic transition, and Pakistan should look at it not only as a big younger neighbor but as a potentially powerful country with an important role in the world affairs. Close ties between Moscow and New Delhi should not be taken as plea to rule out possibility of friendly relations with Russia. Mutually constructive relations with Russia are in long-term interest of Pakistan. Therefore efforts be made to forge ties with Moscow without expecting immediate results. It is through confidence building measures like addressing Russian concerns over Chechnya, cooperation on issues like terrorism and removal of misunderstandings that both the countries can lay a foundation of harmonious relations
International relations are a matter of give and take. Unless two countries have convergence of interests, bilateral relations amongst them generally remain luke warm. It is therefore considered important to identify the fields in which mutual interdependencies can be created with Russia. Though economics, commerce and trade are readily available fields in this regard, respective ministries can jointly work out the mutual interests for long lasting relations between two countries.
Though we have missed many opportunities of carving friendly relations with Russia, dynamics of prevalent geo political environment of unipolar world may be exploited to compensate for the past. For the long term advantages, both countries should concentrate on developing mutually beneficial relations in the fields of mutual interest, while working sincerely to address mutual misunderstandings. Pakistan surely has seen a ray of light after the successful visit by COAS Gen. Raheel as the efforts in tackling terrorism were highly praised and all out support for this cause is ensured by the Russian government. We all hope and pray that things go in right direction.