By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Islamabad, Pakistan: Islamabad is celebrating 70th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Pakistan and Russia (former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics–USSR) on May 1, 2018 as former USSR established diplomatic relations with Pakistan on May 1, 1948.
USSR—Russian Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик — СССР existed from 1922 to 1991 and had cordial relations with Pakistan during 60s and 70s and also gifted Pakistan Steel Mills. Foreign office of Pakistan in a statement issued here on Tuesday says that May 1, 2018 marks the seventieth anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the Russian Federation (referring its relation with former USSR). In the backdrop of multiple recent developments that have seen Pakistan-Russia relations touch historic new heights, the event is being celebrated in both countries with great fervour and zeal.
Pakistan which had been boosting its role for disintegrating former USSR through launching Afghan Jihad funded by United States and Saudi Arabia in 1978-79 is now a credible and reliable friend of today’s “Russian Federation”—- Росси́йская Федерaция, (pronounce in Russian as Rossiyskaya Federatsiya). Engaged in holding military exercises “дружба” —Friendship annually since 2016, their friendship is fast evolving into a mature partnership. Relations between the two countries are today characterized by mutual trust, commonality of interests, and convergence of views on important regional and global issues. Both countries have similar stakes in durable peace and stability in their common neighbourhood, and harbour shared aspirations for regional development and prosperity.
Turning point for Pakistan’s relationship with Russia was the visit of Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu to Islamabad in November 2014 when both countries signed a defence cooperation agreement that would help both the countries to strengthen bilateral relations and build mutual trust in future.
The agreement was signed by the than Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu in Rawalpindi. This was first ever visit by any Russian Defence Minister to Pakistan.
The upward trajectory of mutual relations of Pakistan and Russia is being maintained through sustained high level interaction through strong institutional mechanisms and cementing cooperation in such diverse fields as trade & commerce; banking & finance; agriculture & industry; defence & security; education and technology, and energy & infrastructure development.
The two countries have also collaborated closely at international forums including the United Nations. Russia has been a strong supporter of Pakistan’s membership of SCO which affords another useful platform for close cooperation on matters of common concern.
Pakistan views Russia as an important global power, a significant development partner, and a salient contributor to regional stability. Pakistan believes that long term multidimensional strategic partnership between the two countries will be mutually beneficial for the people of Pakistan and the Russian Federation and would contribute towards regional peace and stability.
Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y. Dedov played a major role for providing a platform for enhancing Pak-Russia diplomatic relationship since he arrived in Pakistan in 2013 . He always says that Pakistan and Russia can work together in military and economic sectors.
In November 2017, Russia awarded a Pakistani with the highest civil award of the Federation of Russia. Dr Najam Sahar Butt (Наджам Сахар Бат) from Lahore got highest civil award of Russia in the field of literature—the “Medal of Pushkin”. It is interesting to note that Pakistan is yet grace any Russian citizen with any civilian award.
Pakistan has shown its interest in buying military hardware from Russia and participated in Russian war games and also attended Army exhibitions. However, Russia is yet to get anything tangible from Islamabad as the only mega project of Russia in Pakistan is facing constant delays and turbulence that is South-North Gas pipeline project while sale of military hardware is also not up to the expectations of Kremlin. Interestingly, Pakistan went for a contract of refurbishing of tanks with Ukraine which has most adverse relations with Moscow since 2014 and this development helped pro-Indian lobby in Moscow to portrait that Pakistan should not be considered as a reliable partner in South Asia. However, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov believes that Pakistan and Russia are on same page regarding several regional issues particularity the Afghan crises.
Pakistan Armed forces had been proactive for enhancing military relations with Russia since former COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Former COAS Gen Raheel Sharif continued the policy of engaging with Russian military leadership. The recent visits of Chief of Pakistan Army COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa and National Security Advisor of Pakistan (NSA) Gen Nasser Khan Janjua are seen as “very important” and “tangible” developments by Russian Think Tanks who believe that these visits would help to neutralise certain circles who are not in favour of enhancing diplomatic relations with Pakistan at the cost of historic relations with India.
The only irritant so far for excellent relationship between the two countries is the fate of important contract which was signed between both the countries in 2015 but still awaits its future. It may be mentioned that Pakistan and Russia signed South-North Gas pipeline project in October 2015 for transferring imported gas from Karachi to Lahore. The project is supposed to work with BOOT model (Build Own Operate Transfer). The built pipeline will be owned and operated by the project company for 25 years. During this period payments for gas deliveries will help the company return the investments and make profit. After that the pipeline will be handed over to the government of Pakistan. This project was scheduled to be started in 2016. However, this project is still not come out of turbulence and nothing has appeared so far on ground.
It is pertinent to mention that diplomatic circles believe that Pakistan is quite slow in providing tangibles (business opportunity) to Russia and it (Pakistan) looks towards Turkey, China, Qatar and United States while buying services and hardware while India is already sending hard cash to Moscow and has offered more projects to Russian companies and this economic factor can slowdown pace of journey of Moscow to reach Islamabad.Historically, Russians believe in equal relations with equal level of respect and trust and let their partners total freedom of relations with others; therefore Pakistan will not have any issue for continuing its historic relationship with Washington while dealing with Moscow.
There is saying in Russian language:
Друг это тот, кто дает вам полную свободу быть самим собой. (A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself).
However, Pakistan should understand Russian mindset for maintaining constant and sustainable diplomatic relationship with Moscow because Russians are also known to trust friends for several times but leave them quietly and without warning or intimation if they feel that their friends do not understand their circumstances (diplomatic requirements).
One of the most popular quotes of Russian President Vladimir Putin about relationship is
Я самый богатый человек, не только в Европе, но и во всем мире. Я собираю эмоции. (I am the richest man, not only in Europe, but all over the world. I collect emotions).
Putin’s quote help someone to understand that personal relationship is very important for Russian mindset.