Authored by: Raosen Taj Raisani & Haris Bilal Malik
Edited by: S. Sadia Kazmi
The shifting alliances in the world require an understanding of the notions and contours of the existing alliances along with their potential to develop and evolve. Pakistan-Russia relations are slowly but assuredly evolving to encompass the dominant realities of global politics and domestic statesmanship. These relations are not confined to just one area of cooperation, but include every facet of statecraft including military, politics, economy, society and culture. Still, the strategic relations between the two countries are the most challenging and most understudied of these tenets of statecraft. Hence, it is essential for the comprehension of these relations to focus on their strategic importance and vitality. Pakistan-Russia strategic relations encapsulate the improving military ties between both countries. These involve the purchase of military armaments from Russia, the conduct of joint exercises and the professional training of Pakistani soldiers in Russia. There are joint groups of both countries to debate and deliberate the issues of strategic stability, counter terrorism and other areas of interest. There are prominent threats to both states that include the violent non-state actors and their footprints in Pakistan and Russia. In addition, there are several financial and economic constraints that lower the overall dependence of both states on each other.
Keeping in view the existing relationship between both countries and the space to evolve the volume and strength of the initiatives of alliance between both states, the SVI organized a One Day International Conference titled “Pakistan-Russia Strategic Relations: Prospects for Cooperation”, at the Islamabad Marriott Hotel. The main theme of the conference was to offer an insightful understanding of the current and prospective nature of the relationship between both states. The conference was divided into two sessions other than the Inaugural session with panelists who were knowledgeable and experienced in the intricacies and overarching dimensions of the relations between both countries. The guests of the conference included Ambassadors of different countries to Pakistan, Professors and Lecturers form various universities in Islamabad and numerous illustrious personalities from NGOs, Media and research scholars as well as military and civil elites. The Chief Guest of the occasion was H.E. Tehmina Janjua, the serving Foreign Secretary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A career diplomat and the first Pakistani woman to head the topmost designation in the Foreign Services in Pakistan who is not only the most competent but also the most relevant person to discuss the complexities of a relationship like that of Pakistan and Russia.
The inaugural session started with an overview of the activities and contributions of the SVI. This was presented by Ms. S. Sadia Kazmi, Director Academics, Policy and Programs at the SVI. She highlighted that the core objectives of the SVI are to produce research and actionable policy initiatives and the main aim is to promote dialogue, discourse and discussion at the national, regional and global levels. She also stated that the future objectives of the SVI are the promotion of a framework for producing impactful research. SVI produces a biannual research journal that is in its 7th iteration named Journal of Security and Strategic Analyses (JSSA). Along with this there is a monthly electronic journal named SVI-Foresight which comprises of pertinent writings on contemporary security issues. SVI has also published four books and two are forthcoming. Moreover, 74 academic sessions have been held in addition to
more than 250 Op-Eds published in print media. SVI has also conducted various round tables, monthly in-house seminars and conferences that have extrapolated different opinions and learned viewpoints.
The welcoming remarks of Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI) started off with welcoming the Chief Guest for her prompt approval and time for attending the conference. He also thanked the Ambassador of Russia H.E. Alexey Dedov for his gracing the conference with his presence. He welcomed the Ambassadors and introduced the speakers from Russia which included Dr. Irina Nikolaevna Serenko, Dr. Yulia Sveshnikova and Dr. Boris Volkhonsky. He also expressed thanks to Mr. Ross Masood Husain (Chairperson, SVI) for his presence. He thanked other distinguished participants including Mr. Pavel Didkovsky, AVM (R) Faaiz Amir, Ambassador (R) Arif Kamal, Mr. Kahlid Banuri and Mr. Hamid Ali Khan for agreeing to speak at the platform. Underlining the present status of Pakistan-Russia relations, Dr. Cheema remarked that the current relationship between both countries is cordial, but the pace of development is very slow almost like ‘snail pace’. The military cooperation is the most active part of this relationship. The Defence Cooperation Agreement is the landmark agreement between both states. There is also a Consultative Group on strategic stability and one on counter terrorism that provides pertinent discussion forum for issues that need consideration.
Dr. Cheema specifically highlighted the problem of peace in the region. He remarked that the conflict in Afghanistan is one of the main hurdles for strategic stability in the region. In this regard Moscow Dialogue is the front runner in efforts for finding peace. Also, there are common counter terrorism concerns by both the states regarding ISIS-K (ISIS- Khorasan) for which both are developing a common counter terrorism strategy for its suppression. He noted that there exists cooperation in the political sphere, but this cordiality is not reflected in economic relationship. Economic ties take up a rather smaller portion of this partnership as evident from the North- South gas pipeline agreement which was to be completed in 2020 but is still not in progress. The volume of the annual trade between the two states is 800 million USD, which is nominal. With regards to the future possibilities, there is a need to look into the commodities that can be employed in bilateral trade.
He recognized that in the history of Russia, the disintegration of Soviet Union was a watershed event. This still impacts the current relationship between the two countries in many ways with various deep-seated reservations. He also questioned the reason for President Putin not reciprocating the visit to Pakistan despite the former President Zardari and Prime Minister Sharifs’ visits to Russia. He put this argument for discussion further to better comprehend the realistic strength of the relationship between both countries. He also emphasized on the need
for the resolution of the pending issue of about $200 million of Russian money held by Pakistani banks due to a financial dispute.
In conclusion, he stated that this is an objective relationship that carries a huge potential to move forward. The discussion needs to define where the evolution of this relationship is going to be? He was of the view that the current pace of relationship will continue in the policy of Russia for Pakistan. This can be expected as Vladimir Putin has been elected for a second term of Presidency (fourth overall) and there may be a continuation of the Russian policy towards Pakistan.
The welcoming remarks were followed by the address of the Chief Guest.
The Chief Guest, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Ms. Tehmina Janjua commended the SVI for organizing an eventful and pertinent conference on a very important topic i.e. the relationship between Pakistan and Russia. She entioned the impacting role of the Chairperson SVI Mr. Ross Masood Husain in her education and training. She thanked the Ambassadors of Russia and Central Asian Republics as well as the participants and educated company for their participation in the event. She emphasized that the topic being addressed in the conference needs elaborative comprehension and new insights which in her view this conference will provide. Ms. Janjua in her strong avowal for the realistic narrative of politics remarked that “Map is a great indicator of reality”. The rationale for achieving collaborative understanding between different states lies in the comprehension of geographic constraints and the shared boundaries. Pakistan-Russia relations are dependent on the dictates of their geography. Both states are straddled by the Central Asian Republics and the changes in Afghanistan have a direct bearing on them In this changing geopolitical structure of the globe, Pakistan is the gateway to Eurasia as it can link markets with manufactures. Russia is one of the greatest producers of gas and has been the historical key player for Central Asia, while Pakistan can link these producers with consumers around the world. Such a relationship can offer the gradual strengthening of their bilateral relationship.
She further opined that the relation between Pakistan and Russia have not changed drastically or rapidly rather it has an incremental quality. This evolutionary relationship has been gradually increasing through collaborative process of engagement between both states. The relationship is evidently pronounced and markedly different from the earlier times of the Cold War. Some important features that constitute the contemporary changed relationship between Russia and Pakistan:
I. Progressive institution building is evident from the twelve bilateral forums that encompass increasing areas of common concerns including strategic stability, trade and military cooperation. The forums underline the willingness of both countries to indulge in constructive understanding of collaboration.
II. Increased frequency of meetings between the two sides that have been taking place exemplify well coordinated mutual positions and deep understanding in multilateral forums like SCO and UN.
III. The existing military ties are burgeoning in the shape of mutual military exercises and naval exercises along with the procurement of defence equipment.
IV. The strategic cooperation between both countries is focused on Afghanistan.The prospects for peace in Afghanistan have been discussed in the Moscow Dialogue of which Pakistan is a part and parcel.
V. The revival of Russian investment in mega infrastructural projects in Pakistan. The investment has been a key part of the big technological projects in Pakistan and their revival.
She further mentioned that the current phase of the relations precipitated Russia to adopt a nuanced policy in South Asia. This was prominent in the offer by Russia to mediate in the current Pulwama crisis, which India declined. The emerging partnership needs forging of relationship in competitive areas to make the future more promising in terms of bilateral relationship. In this vein she presented a seven point framework that can be improved upon to cater for the evolving partnership.
I. There is an outstanding debt problem between Pakistan and Russia. There is a need to remove these impediments to further improve the trade relationship.
II. The trade is getting stronger with the current volume at US $0.8 billion. There are also discussions regarding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which can improve the trade relations.
III. Deepening the strategic stability necessitates that the concerns of Pakistan regarding sale of specific weapon systems to India be considered by Russia.
IV. Continuation of closer cooperation in the military and security ties.
V. Russia can be linked up with the CPEC to maximize the existing connective economic infrastructure that is bringing the region closer.
VI. There are low people to People contacts between the two countries. There is a need to increase these contacts along with a focus on learning languages and cultural cooperation.
VII. The two countries have a strong incentive to collaborate in SCO regarding the issue of regional importance and bilateral concerns.
The Foreign Secretary summarized her address by saying that the future relations between both countries will allow rapidity and involvement in regional projects. This will make Russia a member of the growing list of allies of Pakistan. The inaugural session was concluded with a shield presented by Dr. Cheema to the Foreign Secretary honoring her candid presentation and participation in the event.
The second session started with an introduction of the panelists that focused on a broader theme of “Changing Geo-political Scenario and Prospects for Pakistan-Russia Relations”. The panel of discussants included Dr. Irena Nikolaevna Serenko (Senior Research Associate, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia), Amb (R) Arif Kamal, Dr. Yulia Sveshnikova (Consultant, PIR Center, Moscow, Russia), Mr. Hamid Ali Khan (former National Coordinator, National Counter Terrorism Authority). The session was chaired
by AVM (R) Faaiz Amir, HI (M), S Bt, (VC, Air University, Islamabad).
The first speaker Dr. Irina Serenko delivered a talk on “Changing Geo-political Dynamics and Russia’s Policy for South Asia”. Underlining the situation in South Asia, she discussed the role of Russia in the region. She stated that Russia is conducting a political and economic shift to Asia. This is a part of the larger initiative of Russian President who plans to construct partnership in Asia. This includes increasing Russia’s imprint in CAR and cementing its relationship with China, Iran and Pakistan. The main interesting pursuing such a policy is to pursue a more stable foreign policy in wake of contemporary challenges with Trump’s presidency.The most important component of this policy is the unity of geography prevalent in Asia.The economy of the regional states is linked with one another in geographic terms. This geo economic dimension of the current global politics needs pursuing closer relationship with one’s geographic neighbors. The shift in Russia’s policy is evident in its increasing partnership with the quadrangle of countries, maximizing multi lateralism with UNO and SCO. This is also exemplified by Russia’s partnership with CARs in the domain of gas and energy and its strong support for BRI and CPEC, which form part of the ancient Silk route. This economic dimension of geography encompasses whole Eurasian region which is why Russia views BRI positively and focuses on good relations with Afghanistan and Iran. The main economic interests of Russia are supplying gas and building industrial projects in gas and energy sectors. Citing the current agreement between the two countries, she was of the view that Russia is increasing its presence in Islamabad. This also puts Russia in competition with China which is active in Pakistan. Also, the recent announcement of a Saudi oil refinery does not put off Russia as there are various occasions and opportunities that strengthen the bilateral connections between Pakistan and Russia.Russia has played a facilitating role in conflicts between India and Pakistan. During the War in 1965, Soviet Union mediated between the two warring states in Tashkent. In the present escalation after Pulwama incident, Russia again offered mediation. This dimension of Russia’s role in South Asia stems from its convictions for a stronger Eurasian continental collaboration. This can be a multidimensional and a good example for joint efforts for peace and collaboration.
The second speaker Ambassador (R) Arif Kamal deliberated upon the“Changing Geo-political Environment in South, West and Central Asia: A Pakistani Perspective”. He underlined the reconfiguration of power alignments that are transforming the political environment around the world. Such a reconfiguration also informs the understanding of Pakistani viewpoint. A resurgent Russia is challenging the global order based on the interests of hegemons. A wave of multi polarity has seen massive shift of wealth from the West to the East. New politics and financial order are being established in the wake of this global change which challenges the effectiveness of this uni polarity. This end of uni polarity has been exemplified by the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia seems like a continuity of this chain. The two most important questions that arise from such a change is the effect of this pivot on the hegemony of the United States and the reasons for this impulse of Russia for a greater role in world politics.
Amb. Kamal opined that the United States is looking for proxies to maintain its hold in the region. The US is also focusing more on the Indo-Pacific region to enhance its role in the entirety of the region of South Asia, South West Asia and Indo-Pacific. Another tactic of this expansive role is containing Chinese interests and pressurizing Pakistan by providing more assistance and validity to India. In addition to that, the ideas of regime change in Tehran and
Damascus that was earlier espoused by the US’ Middle Eastern policy is increasingly being changed to the promotion of Arab-Persian rivalry. These reasons also incline Russia to focus on building cooperation in the region. However, as opposed to US, Russia is building bridges between the Arabs and the Persians. It is also focusing on trans-regional connectivity. These developments will surely increase the presence of Russia in the affairs of South Asia and will make it a stabilizing factor in the region along with strengthening Iran and Afghanistan.
Dr. Yulia Sveshnikova delivered a thought-provoking talk on the topic of “Russia’s ‘Pivot to East Policy’ and Future Avenues for Cooperation between Pakistan and Russia”. Theorizing the causes of this pivot towards East, she noticed the need for an ideological framework based on the issue of identity. The external identity that Russia exhibits to the world and the challenge of finding a common internal identity that is distinctive of the Western identity.
The external identity demands that Russia embraces and ascertains its Asian quality.This can be corroborated in the context that various other countries and their leaders such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia are looking towards East and shunning the West. The internal challenge to its identity stems from a global phenomenon in which societies are increasingly becoming conscious of their distinctiveness. These can be easily witnessed in the European countries that are coping with their concerns for identity as is also the case with Trump’s self containment and increasing projection of a great American identity.Concerning the ‘pivot to east policy’, she was of the view that it is a visible projection of this identity crisis which was first perceived in the aftermath of the Georgian War in 2008. This
was further perceived in the Ukrainian crisis forcing Russia to look eastward pursuing a closer cooperation. The new collaborative understanding forged after these crises define a Russian vision for the Eurasian region. This vision revolves around Russia’s ability to self-reflect and self realize. The effective cooperation with South East and West Asia is dependent on increasing the existing cooperation.Some other features of this cooperation include recognizing the fact that unilateral trampling of sovereignty will be challenged. Russia, India and Pakistan also support JCPOA (Joint Cooperation Plan of Action). This further proves the fact that agreements remain valid even if unilaterally scraped. She was also wary of calling the relationship between Russia and Pakistan as strategic because there is still big space available for understanding each other and the motivations and interests that both countries follow. She was also of the view that it is necessary that both countries develop working and strong relationship with other countries.She ended her discourse with the argument that “we still need to know more about each other”.
Mr. Hamid Ali Khan while explaining the dimensions of the“Politics of Afghan Conflict and Prospects for Settlement: Pakistan Russia Cooperation” remarked that it is now an established fact that the peace process in Afghanistan is only possible through dialogue.
The three phases of the conflict have impacted Afghanistan and region vehemently. The post 9/11 scenario has also underscored the importance of the concept that conventional forces against non-traditional threats are not completely viable.The impact of the war in Afghanistan has also produced grievous and harmful consequences for many countries specifically for Pakistan. The remarkable success after the implementation of the twenty-point agenda of NAP (National Action Plan) in the aftermath of gruesome APS (Army Public School, Peshawar Cantt) attack has provided Pakistan with strong lessons for dealing with the threats emanating from its peripheries. The effects have also impacted the US. The new policy of Trump that “superpowers do not wage long wars” is observant of the need that dialogue rather than fighting is the way forward in Afghanistan. In this regard the US talks in Afghanistan and the Moscow dialogue are the most significant steps taken thus far. Nonetheless, this also highlights the trust deficit between the two powers concerning an appropriate solution for peace in Afghanistan which can herald a reemergence of terrorism. It is imperative to understand, therefore, to indicate the different perceptions and roles of countries in the immediate region of Afghanistan.Russia views the Afghanistan issue through the prism of security. It believes that it is necessary to find a political settlement for the issues in Afghanistan to enhance the security of Russia. India believes that a Taliban takeover will diminish its role from the region while the US wants to strike a balance between the opposing parties in Afghanistan to maximize and strengthen its gains. In addition to these countries, Iran wants to continue the proportional representation of various groups while China is concerned with the economic development in the region with the expansion and maintenance of BRI in the region. Moreover, the Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process is shaping the environment in the region with priorities given to geo-economics. One pithy observation by the speaker was to allow the traditional Jirga system a chance in place of democracy in order to equip Afghans to deal with their problems.In his recommendations for Pakistan-Russia relations within the regional environment,the speaker remarked that there is a vast space for both states to partner especially in combating terrorism. This relates specifically to deal with and neutralize the threat of ISIS-K.Additionally, effective border management is needed for countering the trade of drugs that plague the world.
The session Chair AVM (R) Faaiz Amir, HI(M) S Bt, in his remarks underlined the importance of Indian Ocean as the arena of evolving great game and competition between emerging and existing great powers. One can observe an ever increasing pivot of India, US and China towards this region. However, he noted that in the aftermath of the
collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has performed sparingly in this region. The changing environment demands increasing Russian participation and equilibrium. Russian equilibrium is its capability to maintain partnership with the regional powers in the current competitive environment. However, there is a growing understanding among the Russian policy makers for the need to maintain relationship with Pakistan in order to play an effective role in the region.The relation with Pakistan aims to solve two problems for past decade, first is to counter the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan and the second is to limit the US influence in the region. On the other hand, Pakistan’s merger of FATA in KPK exhibits Pakistan’s confidence that a buffer zone with Afghanistan is no longer required as Pakistan no more views Russia as a threat to Afghanistan.While concluding he emphasized on the need to enhance the SCO and its role in the region with India and Pakistan joining as full members. The Indian Ocean has now entered its scope which it will serve as one of the dialogue platforms for economic cooperation as well as risk assessment. As far as Pakistan and Russia’s relations are concerned, a lot needs to be done for a flourishing partnership between Pakistan and Russia and the relationship must move beyond the military sales and military cooperation. He also mentioned that a lot is happening on the technological development front especially in the field of cyber security and artificial
intelligence which could create new opportunities of cooperation between the two countries.
The talks were followed by an interactive Question and Answer session:
Mr. M. Nawaz Khan (Research Officer, Islamabad Policy Research Institute) asked Dr. Nikolaevna Serenko whether the Indian desire for a military buildup at the cost of regional security would spoil the Russian or Trump’s vision of Eurasian community? She answered the question by emphasizing the role of Russia and its interests in the region. She was of the view that the Indian buildup in the region should be viewed in the context of pursuance of a greater role by Russia in the region. It is the interest
based international system which has seen the greater role of Russia. The policy is although dependent on establishing a balanced relationship with every country in the region. These include having greater relationship and military cooperation with Pakistan, too. The regional security is hinged in the pursuance of different states with regards to their internal national interest.
Mr. Muhammad Sarmad Zia (Research Fellow, Center for International Strategic Studies) asked about the prospects of growing economic cooperation between Russia and Pakistan in the contemporary scenario where there are sanctions on Russia and Pakistan is weak in the economic terms. Dr. Yulia Sveshnikova remarked that these questions can be better answered by the officials from Russia. Though, in her view, the cooperation between Pakistan and Russia is primarily a collaboration of military technology and counter terrorism. There are some economic projects, but these are incomplete. Simultaneously one can also note that there has been some reluctance on part of China with regards to investment in Russia but these can be viewed in the context of interest based policy of each state.
H.E. Alexey Dedov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in Pakistan, in his keynote address highlighted the nature of the relationship between Russia and Pakistan. Enlisting the features of the mutual relationship, he mentioned that both states are members of the SCO and are looking to discuss new opportunities at the SCO upcoming meeting in Bishkek scheduled for June 2019. The Russia-Pakistan Parliamentary level contact has been established since 2017 which has seen the speakers from both countries visiting each other. The consultative meeting regarding strategic stability is takes place every year and contacts in multilateral organizations have been exemplary. In addition to all this, there have been five plenary sessions in November 2017.
Excellency also talked about the presence of certain obstacles that hamper the improvement of relations between both states. These include the settlement of financial liabilities from Pakistan’s side that shut out the Russian state investment in Pakistan. Also, the lack of banking channels serves as a major impediment for speedy transactions between the two states. He highlighted potential sectors that can attract investment including Telecom, IT,Power, Geological exploration, Steel, TV, Rails, Cars and automobiles, and Pharmaceuticals.His Excellency Alexey Dedov concluded his remarks by saying that the future areas that can see collaboration consists of cultural activities, humanitarian issues and sports initiatives.However, any progress is dependent on developing good methodical framework which can enhance the established relationship manifold.The session culminated with the presentation of the shield to all the speakers by the President/Executive Director, SVI, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema.
The third session started with an introduction of panelists that focused on the comprehensive strokes of the “Pakistan-Russia Defense and Strategic Cooperation”. The session was chaired by Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI). The panel of speakers included Dr. Boris Volkhonsky (Associate Professor, Institute of Asian and African Studies, Moscow State University, Russia), Mr. Khalid Banuri (former DG ACDA, SPD), Mr. Pavel Didkovsky (First Secretary, Embassy of Russia in Pakistan), and two discussants Amb (R) Zamir
Akram (Former Permanent Representative, Conf. on Disarmament, UN, Geneva) and Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal (Prof. SPIR, QAU, Islamabad).
The first Speaker of the session Dr. Boris Volkhonsky while talking about“Pak-Russia Relations: Challenges and Prospects” argued that the strategic relationship is not completely bilateral, but it relates to the wider multilateral hegemonic system of the world. He stated that both Pakistan and Russia pose a challenge to the hegemonic structure of uni polarity in the world while trying to cooperate in changing this structure. This can be seen from their cooperation in prevention of international terrorism and combating instability in the region. This increasing role also shapes up their response to the greatest challenge regarding instability in the region which is to find peace in Afghanistan. The most concerning challenge in the region in contemporary times is finding a peaceful solution to Afghanistan conflict. This presents to the US a zero-sum calculation because if the peace is stable it will challenge the US to remain as the single most relevant power in the region. If this is not the case and peace is
destabilized, there are fears of having a repeat of the civil war that commenced in the aftermath of Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1980s. The Moscow format and SCO address this complexity by paving ways for a dialogue. He voiced his personal views that the Taliban have relevance in Afghanistan and should be given a greater role to play for peace in the region.
Summarizing his discussion, the speaker recognized the low level of bilateral trade and remarked that there is a need for small and medium businesses to participate more actively to make positive contributions in the trade relationship between both countries. In addition, there is a need to define the contours of trade between Pakistan and Russia as Eurasia is the central peace of global security and politics.
The second speaker Mr. Khalid Banuri explored the dimensions of “Pakistan-Russia Cooperation and Strategic Stability” in his talk. His argument stated that the current geopolitical environment impacts the notions of strategic stability. He was of the view that there is a wave of ultra nationalism in which the decision makers can take tough decision and live by it. This is significant as there is an emergence of new alliances and a wave of complex interdependence.This makes states coexist with conflict and cooperation. In this environment the idea of strategic stability relies on minimizing the probability of escalatory war. This can be achieved politically through high level meeting and contacts between the leadership.
While describing the factors that bring Pak-Russia together, the speaker gave cognizance to some prominent ones that include: the common interest to bring stability in Afghanistan, closeness between Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan, and the recognition of Daesh as a major threat. It also includes the evolution of dialogue process in Afghanistan; another most important factor is that Russian view is different from” Western” view. The Russian view extends to interpret the relationship between both states as based on mutual interests and;therefore, it follows a balanced approach as opposed to one-sided favour to any state.The impact of this relationship is also dependent on Russian strategic partnership with India. He mentioned that Pakistan has voted in favor of Russian position on INF resolution. With regards to the NSG, where there is space for more members, Russia is not opposed to Pakistan’s entry. This can become a win-win situation for both states.However, the sale of S-400 missiles is an important impediment to strategic stability as there is an offensive dimension to these weapons. Pakistani position on these weapons can be understood in the similar way as that of Russian opposition to placing missile defence in Poland.The introduction of nuclear submarines in this calculus is also quite destabilizing not just for Pakistan but for the whole region. It is necessary for Russia to recognize that trade-offs should not be on its authority as a country but as a regional power impacting the region. This is manifested in the Russian offer to mediate in the aftermath of Pulwama crisis, too.In conclusion, Mr. Khalid Banuri emphasized on the need to learn each other’s languages and work collaboratively on finding solutions to issues that can spark conflict in the region. In sum, he was of the view that now is the time to move beyond baby steps.
The next speaker Mr. Pavel Didkovsky delivered a talk on “Pakistan-Russia Defence and Non-proliferation Cooperation”. He described that there is a need to narrow the gaps in possiblem is understanding regarding this topic. As arms race is increasingly becoming a reality, defence cooperation is rapidly becoming an avenue of cooperation between states around the world. This is also a precept of the current Russian-Pakistani cooperation including counter terrorism exercises, membership of SCO and the increase in military trade.There has also been a progressive development in non-proliferation steps and agreements. With regards to the OPCW and the INF treaty, the positions taken by the countries have not been dissimilar. There is also an understanding on the prevention of militarization in outer space because both realize that the orbital weapons are dangerous for stability and can spark an advanced arms race.He also acknowledged Pakistan’s role to comply with the rules of NSG, NRC, Wassenaar arrangement and UNSC Resolution-1540. He argued that this compliance contributes to the image building of Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state and can also create more space for cooperation in this field. Regarding the NSG, he was of the view that the talks have been going on to narrow the gaps between both countries. The possible solution to resolving these issues can be additional agreements between Pakistan and the IAEA. In addition to that, Pakistan’s commitments to unilateral nuclear test moratorium and using responsible language regarding nuclear weapons are commendable initiatives. He labeled the Pulwama crisis as a “miniaturist Cuban Missile crisis” which specified the fragility of peace between both countries. He pointed out the need for establishing additional CBMs and bilateral treaties between both India and Pakistan to bring a stable peace to the region.
Amb (R) Zamir Akram as one of the discussants debated the basic strategic context of the Pakistan-Russia cooperation. He was of the view that both the states oppose a uni polar world and are in favour of rules-based international order. This rules-based order needs the participation of Russia. In addition, the center of gravity of geo politics is also moving towards Eurasia where China and Russia are moving closer on one hand while on the other hand the US and India are approaching a nearness in their opposition against BRI and CPEC. In this scenario, Pakistan is a central state that can balance out the challenging propositions of these countries. In the end he maintained that in this age the interests of a state are not confined to partnership with a singular state at the expense of another state. He suggested that the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan should be viewed in this context afterwards.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal as the second discussant described that the new approaches in the region include European containment policy for Russia and Indian containment policy for Pakistan which are failing profoundly. This brings the two states i.e.Russia and Pakistan closer to each other to challenge the west dominated discourse. This agenda-driven narrative allows India to act and escalate with impunity as has been witnessed in the current Indo Pak crisis, where it was actively haranguing Pakistan. This is the similar case with European bashing of Russians. It necessitates that Pakistan and Russia should jointly debate the discourse. In the conclusion he cautioned against any new multilateral arms-control agreements which limit the capabilities of both states. In his view such prospective agreements should be opposed jointly by Pakistan and India.
The talks were followed by an interactive Question and Answer Session:
Ms. Puruesh Chaudhary (Founder & President, AGAHI) while talking about the prospective enlargement of Russian economy mentioned that their projections put the value of Russian GDP to 2 Trillion USD by the year 2020. In this context she asked Dr. Boris Volkhonsky as to what will be the state of Russian Economy in next 15 years. Dr. Boris Volkhonsky explained that the Russian economy has developed from a central socialist economy in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union. The current economic policy is based on the liberalization of market which is not so popular or experienced in Russia. The prospective growth of Russian economy lies in
adopting a policy that is valid for Russia. In this respect, small and medium businesses can play a role which can offer not just global products but also local commodities available for consumption. He also argued that Russia’s “pivot to East” policy started earlier than the Ukrainian crisis. It purports to reach not just to South Asia but to the Far East to make up for the declining consumption in Russia. Mr. Pavel Didkovsky added to the answer by stating that there are some examples of the states that were still able to perform well in the economic terms despite sanctions. He quoted Iran and North Korea that have long been under sanctions but are still viable in economic terms. He argued that sanctions make states stronger. Although it is obvious that there are some negative effects of sanctions but at the end of the day they provoke the businesses and governments to find innovative solutions. Same is the case with Russia where the figures show that despite all the sanctions Russian economy is still growing.
Mr. Zeeshan Hayat (Graduate, National Defense University) raised a pertinent question about the repercussion on the prevention of Arms race in outer space in the wake of recently conducted Anti-satellite
missile test by India. Mr. Pavel Didkovsky stated that certain diplomatic and technical information is still missing for analysis, so it is better to wait for the situation to clear out in order for him to be able to make a comment. He said that the Russian perspective on the issue is in line with its position in the UN General Assembly where it has clearly indicated many times that Russia doesn’t support presence of weapons in space.Contextualizing the contemporary international political environment Gen (R) Asad Durrani remarked that the current Russian Eastward projection and growing Pakistan-Russia collaboration are results of disastrous foreign policies of the great power, most specifically the USA. The disaster in Afghanistan has brought Pakistan and other regional countries together.
The disaster in Syria has seen Turkey joining in this regional collaboration and the disaster of shunning Russia in the West has turned it towards the East. This is the greatest great game. In this framework and with regards to the US’ objective in Afghanistan, he asked whether this great game of geopolitics, geo-economics and geo strategy would continue. Dr. Boris Volkhonsky replied that in Afghanistan until the framework of a zero-sum game continues, the disasters will remain there. But there is a need to watch the India Pakistan relations. These relations necessitate broad integration along the lines of common grounds. SCO provides an opportunity for such commonality. It is imperative to sort out the territorial disputes for any further progress in the relations.
Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali (Senior Research Fellow, CISS) argued that Russian Geo-economic approach conflicts with its geo political approach. India arguably is the largest importer of Russian military equipment. This makes India an essential economic market for Russia whose maintenance is important for Russian economy.Moreover, India is pursuing a closer relationship in military alliance with the US and the US’interests in the region are invariably at odds with Russian interests. In this scenario he asked, if it is correct to say that Russia is providing India the devices to enhance its ties with the US at its own expense? Dr. Boris Volkhonsky responded by saying that the alliance between India and the US is not purely a strategic alliance but a foreign policy model adopted by India. For India the main competing factor is the rise of China which is also a concern for the US. In this sense, their interests coincide. Therefore, the US is looking at India as a kind of counterbalance against China. This was the Indian policy during the Cold War when it relied on the Soviet Union to counter balance China. Today there is a strong and comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and China which pushes India to pursue an alliance with the US. Still it is not a global strategic alliance between the United States and India but a situation ally dictated one. In terms of geo-economics, if India doesn’t get weapons from Russia, it would get them from the US, eventually weakening the relationship between the two states further.
Dr. Umar Abbasi (Assistant Professor, COMSATS University,Islamabad) posed two question. He asked the panel about the possible measures that could be taken by Russia to improve relationship with Pakistan, keeping in mind the burden of history that the two states share and the Indian factor. Dr. Boris Volkhnosky responded that here is certain history which determines the perception regarding one another.This history colors the perceptions and notions of people which are also reinforced by the low level of contact between the two sides. There are no direct flights to either country and very little media presence. There is also an international perception that describes Pakistan as an unsafe country. What is needed is more understanding and more contexts regarding one another. This context and understanding will allow for more contact between the people of Pakistan and Russia. This was also highlighted by the Russian Ambassador. Such contacts will also allow the small and medium investors in industries to outgrow the perception of Pakistan as an unsafe country. This is what is required to improve the atmosphere to grow in knowledge and understanding between the people of both countries for further enhancement of the relationship.
Ambassador (R) Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry (DG, ISSI, Islamabad) while delivering the keynote address highlighted two important points: First the reasons for the recent uptick in the relations; and second,the reasons for the slower growth of these relations.Elaborating on the first point he enlisted the causes that brought Pakistan and Russia closer; first, the tilt of US towards India that threatens Russia’s space in this relationship; second, the instability in Afghanistan that impacts the regional peace; third the partnership between Pakistan and China that provides economic connectivity and a conduit for Central Asian Republics. While talking about the second point he established that the slow pace of growth of this relationship is impacted by: the fact that the relations between India and Pakistan are fractious which makes India a competing factor for Russian collaboration; the 100 to 120 Million USD debt issue faces handicapped efforts to resolve this problem; there also exists disagreement on transit tariffs that hinders working on projects like North-South gas pipeline; and last but not the least there are serious issues of image projections emanating from Islamist groups in Russia.In sum, he was of the view that alliances in modern times have evolved substantially. In contemporary times, alliances are more issue based. The states tend to partner with each other on one issue while oppose one another on a different issue. In the end he expressed hope that the Pakistan-Russia bilateral relation is following a positive trajectory and carries a huge
potential for cooperation more efficiently.
Lt. Gen. (R) Syed Muhammad Owais, HI (M) in his remarks commended the speakers for their insightful and informative opinions on the topics. He especially highlighted the novelty of ideas and the appropriateness of analyses conducted with regard to the relationship of Pakistan and Russia. He stated that there are some technical issues that plague the relationship between the two states as highlighted by some of the speakers. In addition, it can be evinced by the arguments raised during the conference that there exists opposing lobbies in both states that hinder the progress of mutually agreed and potential projects. Also, there is the evidence of strong Indian apprehension regarding this relationship.He agreed with the speakers that there is a need to design a bilateral framework that can be employed for implementing the policy decisions by both states. In the end he congratulated the participants and speakers for their highly informative talks and grand session of learning and knowledge.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/Executive Director, SVI) thanked all the speakers,chairs and the participants for their invaluable talks, discussion and arguments. He specifically appreciated the SVI members for their team work.
The print and electronic media coverage of the event can be accessed on the provided links: