The recent conundrum in Pakistan’s strategic relations holds Russia’s tilt towards Pakistan for its economic and strategic benefits on the part of its broader South Asian strategy. But will Pakistan ever make it to the Russian bloc amidst global and regional competition of states to harmonize with the superpowers? It is unwise to expect the answer in affirmation as there is a myriad of impediments standing in this way that are intimidating Pakistan to fashion its prosperous relations with Russia.
The instability in the South Asian region has always brought great powers here for the sake of their interests. Russia has fashioned its policies towards South Asian countries to counter security threats posed by the insecurity in the region but Russia’s policies are not identical for all the regional states because Putin has bestowed the special status of India as Russia’s privileged Strategic Partner in the region.
Russia is lending its courtesy to Pakistan to take advantage of all South Asian states. There is no such feeling of affection in the state to state relations; these relations are driven by the benefits and advantages that states potentially produce.
In the lens of global politics, Pakistan is considered a third world state with the distraught environment of poor political regime that is gradually plaguing it from inside and it intimidates the international society and warns them to deal with Pakistan at a distance as Pakistan is currently unable to understand and grasp the notion of opposition domestically and supposedly similar would go internationally. It seems like the democracy and politics in Pakistan are at stake for many years now; the fear of dictatorship and religious fanaticism appears to maneuver through the state that is according the world community not only materializing the degradation of the country internally but also making other countries reluctant to fashion their cordial relations with Pakistan.
Russia, like all other nations, considers Pakistan and Afghanistan the hub and breeding centers for global terrorism and has held Pakistan responsible for the terrorist attacks in Russian territories like Chechnya, Dagestan, and other Central Asian areas. Whereas Pakistan has acknowledged the presence of the dangers of terrorism and extremism in the state but it sees the rampant growth of terrorism in Russia by indigenous means and denies Pakistan’s role in terror producing and financing in Russia which consecutively has created a strong rift of distrust between the countries since then.
In addition to that, with Pakistan being a nuclear state, Russia hesitates to hoist its relation with Pakistan. The reason is not entirely Pakistan being a nuclear state but the potential alarming threats of terrorism that could get hold of the country anytime. Moscow fears that the terrorists can get access to nuclear gear easily in Pakistan and might lead to the triggering of the situation of Pakistani nukes. Staying cautious rather than staying friendly is the only option with a country with an active nuclear weapon, terrorist safe havens (according to the world), and unpredictable threshold levels that could anytime turn the country into a malicious nuclear fiasco!
The friendship of India and Russia cannot be ignored in this regard; both countries enjoy a cordial relationship since the inception of the former state.
The alarming bond between Russia and India barely leaves space for Pakistan to get close to Russia. India is Russia’s greatest arm recipient; more than 60% of the Russian arms are exported to India which implies India’s defense is highly dependent on Russian military equipment. The Moscow-New Delhi Bond has lately been fractured by the increasing intimacy of the US and India but India with its strong lobbying and diplomatic consciousness has glued its relations back with Russia as it was certain. Russia is certainly India’s biggest defense partner for the foreseeable future. Besides, both the countries are collaborating in energy and space projects and their relations are also at full bloom in the trade sector. In 2019–20, trade between Russia and India totaled 10.11 billion dollars, with both nations investing in each other’s oil and gas industries. They have set a goal of $30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025.
India with its intuitive hatred and rage for Pakistan will not let Pakistan and Russia develop close relations as it is in the position to influence the Moscow- Islamabad relations for it is very well aware that Russia will always choose India’s strategic, military and economic benefits over Pakistan.
Scrutinizing the dead root relation and the attitude of Russia towards Pakistan also leads us to Islamophobic sentiments of Russia. Pakistan, as an Islamic state, is believed to be posing security threats to the neighbors for many decades now. Here, the limited interaction of Russia and Pakistan cannot be justified in this regard as Russia on the other side of the world is fully sponsoring and funding the nuclear power plant in the Islamic state of Turkey consolidating the bilateral ties with the state. The potential monetary and power benefits surpass any type of phobias and this apprehension could be considered rather rhetoric than realistic as an excuse for drifting away from Pakistan.
Another important actor in this scenario that will not like Pakistan’s nearness to Russia is Uncle Sam. No matter how exhausted and feeble Islamabad-Washington relations get, Washington will never let Islamabad get out of its sphere of influence. In the past, Russia’s clear support for Pakistan’s admission in SCO was viewed by Washington as Pakistan getting out of reach for the United States of America.
Pakistan is dependent on US financial and economic aids and assistance and it is vulnerable to US hands. Even if Islamabad frees itself from US peanuts it would still be facing the economic structure of the world in which Washington stays the robust player. The husband-wife relation of Pakistan and the US will never let Pakistan get away forever; contemporary advancements show Pakistan’s proximity to China and other greater states but eventually, Pakistan’s decisions are all influenced by uncle Sam and even if Russia wants to bring Pakistan into its proximity, US knows how to channel Pakistan’s decision in opposition to that!
For Pakistan, to make it to a close and trustable buddy of Russia is a dream and seems practically impossible for at least many decades to come. What Pakistan could do is to seriously develop and maintain a good and sound bilateral bond with Moscow and form a level of trust between the two States so that both the states can have mutual strategic and economic benefits with cooperation in every sector possible and can mutually seek new opportunities in future otherwise putting lazy efforts in this relation would hang the relation in a limbo benefitting none.