Pakistan Reader# 256, 8 December 2021
On 1 December, Pakistan and Russian national security advisers met in Moscow during which several issues came under discussion. According to National Security Division (NSD), National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf and Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev reviewed several areas of Pak-Russia relations and held in-depth discussions on regional and international issues. Additionally, the agenda covered bilateral cooperation covering aspects of economy, energy, defence, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, information and cybersecurity. Further, they also discussed collaboration among law enforcement agencies, special services and defence ministries.
The NSD also stated that the delegations “resolved to support all efforts to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan” and “expressed grave concern over the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.” It added, “While summarising the results of the consultations, Patrushev noted good dynamics of relations between Moscow and Islamabad, the effectiveness of their regular political dialogue, including that at the summit and high levels, and interaction within the framework of international organisations, including the United Nations and the SCO.”
The recent warming of ties
In the recent past, Pak-Russia relations has witnessed proactive engagement highlighting the two countries efforts to building a strategic relationship for defence and geopolitical reasons. From military exercises to phone calls between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to diplomatic visits, there seems to be a move from both sides in building a new Moscow-Islamabad partnership. Some of the developments in 2021 include, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s two-day visit to Islamabad in April, the first by a Russian foreign minister in nine years. During the visit, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi termed the meeting as the beginning of ‘a new era’ with Russia.
Later in September, Pakistan and Russia agreed to strengthen their bilateral military cooperation during the third round of Russia-Pakistan Joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC) meetings. Additionally, the two sides also reviewed the status of their bilateral relations and discussed other potential areas of mutual cooperation, including military training, joint exercises, intelligence cooperation and defence industrial cooperation. In the same month, this was followed by a telephonic conversation between PM Khan and President Putin, the second conversation in less than a month. According to the Prime Minister's Office, the two leaders recalled their earlier conversation that took place in August and also discussed collaboration within the domain of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Apart from this Pakistan and Russia have been holding talks on crucial technical issues regarding the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP).
Reasons for the warming up of ties
The deepening of ties between Pakistan and Russia is no surprise give the recent geopolitical developments. Before identifying what, these drivers have been, it must be established that the Pak-Russia relations is one that is a mutually interested alliance. Thus, the warming of relations between Pakistan and Russia involves both sides interest in each other. While, Pakistan seeks to establish better relations with Russia to leverage its position with the United States, tap into Russian military equipment supply and technology assistance as well as gain from the many commercial incentives, Russia on the other hand, is engaging with Pakistan due to its strategic location, being very next to Afghanistan and Central Asian states as well as its search for new defence and energy market. This said, what are the geopolitical developments that are causing this growing proximity.
First, Afghanistan as a point of convergence. The bases of Pak-Russian relations stems from their mutual view of Afghanistan. This is seen in the recent engagements where Afghanistan was at the top of the discussion between the two countries. Given the role that Pakistan’s plays in Afghanistan and Russia’s plans to engage with Afghanistan, the warming up or ties or engagement is inevitable.
Second, China as a drawing force. Another factor that is steadily bring Pakistan and Russia closer is their close ties with China respectively. This growing proximity could be fueled by China who is pushing its two closest partners together and in turn benefitting both Pakistan and Russia.
Third, technological component. Russia has also found a significant market for defense cooperation and sales in South Asia, one of the locations being Pakistan. In return, Pakistan is keen on acquire technologies to defend against destabilization and hybrid attacks from the Russian, thus drawing the two countries closer.
Despite this new closeness Pakistan and Russia have a long way to go in solidifying the relation. However, at the current rate of engagement the two countries are on the path of building a concrete bilateral relationship.
Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Pakistan, Russia discuss defence, cybersecurity cooperation,” Dawn, 2 December 2021
Sanaullah Khan, “Russia's Putin, PM Imran discuss Afghanistan, bilateral ties in 2nd call in a month,” Dawn, 14 September 2021
“Pakistan, Russia to strengthen military ties,” Dawn, 30 September 2021
“Pakistan and Russia: Five reasons behind the moves towards building a new Moscow-Islamabad partnership,” Pakistan Reader, 21 April 2021