Russian troops are participating in joint exercises with the Pakistani army in the northern Pakistani town of Pabbi, 20 miles from the historic town Peshawar.
A statement from the Pakistan army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) pointed out that this is the third round of joint Pak-Russia exercise since 2016.
The second Pak-Russia joint training exercise was held in 2017. In 2017, over 200 servicemen took part in the drills, which were held in the North Caucasus at an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level.
Earlier, Russian officials said that the Pakistani-Russian military drills “Friendship 2018” will be held in the mountains of Pakistan from October 21 to November 4.
More than 70 mountain shooters from Karachay-Cherkessia will take part in the drills. The servicemen from the two countries’ armed forces will perform tasks at an altitude of 1,400 meters above sea level, Astafyev said last week.
The Pak-Russia joint military exercises are taking place in the backdrop of new geopolitical and geo-economic reconfiguration of alliances.
According to Dr Khalil-ur-Rahman, a political analyst of the Daily Times of Pakistan, new changes in Asian continent and on international level perhaps convinced Russia to come closer to Pakistan. He enumerates eight reasons for Russia to have close ties with Pakistan:
Firstly, the US presence in Afghanistan is threat to the interests of Russia and Pakistan.
Secondly, Central Asian Republics were part of the Soviet Union. Pakistan has special attachment with the region due to Muslim legacy.
Thirdly, the region of Central Asia is plenty of natural resources including oil, gas and uranium etc. Uranium is also important for Japan. The exploitation of natural resources of the region needs safe passage for transportation to rest of the world. Pakistan and Russia may not take benefit of the natural resources until the US presence and restoration of peace in Afghanistan. Thus, both have common cause to make efforts for the solution of Afghanistan imbroglio.
Fourthly, closeness between Russia and China has also brought Pakistan closer to Russia. Fifhtly, CPEC initiative launched by China has convinced Russia that it may not afford to remain alien to it. Pakistan is nucleus of CPEC, thus, cordial relations with Pakistan will be in the interest of Russia. Sixthly, Pakistan is in search of new friends. Russia also needs friends to extend its reach to different areas of the globe.
Seventhly, both countries are situated in Asia continent which carries important maritime locations of Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Malacca. The oil travels to the Western countries from the Middle East through the straits and maritime links located in Asia. In order to protect the collective interests of the continent, Pakistan and Russia have important role to play.
Lastly, the Soviet Union desired to have access to warm waters through the Gwadar seaport. It is main source of transportation of CPEC. Russia has found opportunity to respond the Corridor positively to serve its interests.
However, Dr Khalil-ur-Rahman pointed out, that cordial relations between the two countries may not change nature of bilateral relations between Russia and India. However, as done in the cold war period, Russia may not blindly support India against Pakistan.
Pakistan should focus on advancing its relations with Russia
Writing under the title “Pakistan should focus on advancing its relations with Russia,” Retired Colonel Muhammad Hanif pointed out that to contain China’s rise, the US chose India as its strategic and major defense partner, as part of its newly envisaged Indo-Pacific policy. As a result, Pakistan’s strategic value in the eyes of the US has diminished after embracing India.
However, the US strategic thinkers failed to realize Pakistan’s strategic importance in fighting the menace of terrorism in this region and for maintaining peace, and stability in the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East. The US decision makers have also failed to realize that India will never follow the US to contain China; its only aim is to get the US political-economic and military assistance to become a major world power and attain a permanent seat on the UNSC, Col Hanif argued.
US favors India’s military influence in Afghanistan to the detriment of Pakistan, and does not stop India from using Afghan soil to destabilize Balochistan.
Hence, advancing Pakistan’s relations with Russia is very important as Russia can reinforce China’s ongoing support for uplifting Pakistan’s economy and its defense capabilities, it will also be able to provide a limited quantity of advanced weapons like helicopters, aircraft, air defense systems and naval vessels, disregarding India’s objections, Col Hanif said adding:
“Since 2014, Russia has started supporting Pakistan’s stance on ending the Afghan conflict through intra Afghan dialogue which includes the Taliban. In October 2015, Russia signed a $2 billion gas pipeline deal with Pakistan. In June 2016, along with China, Russia also supported Pakistan to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
“Also, Moscow sold Islamabad four Mi-35 combat helicopters, and the two countries also held counter-terror military drills, as well as an anti-drugs operation in the Arabian Sea. A Pakistani warship participated in the Russian Navy Day parade as well, which was taken by President Putin. In September 2018, Pakistan and Russia signed a $10-billion offshore gas pipeline deal and another agreement was signed for the training of Pakistani troops in Russia.”
While endeavoring to revive good working relations with the US, and further deepening Pakistan-China strategic partnership, it is also necessary that Pakistan focus on advancing its relations with Russia, in all fields, Col Hanif concluded.