Mushahid Hussain Sayed is a journalist, geo-strategist, politician, an avid writer and reader. Currently, he is member to the Senate of Pakistan and also the Chairman of Senate Standing Committee on Defense and Defense Production. He is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q).
Prospects of Pak-Russia ties
Almas Haider Naqvi
“The defence cooperation between Russia and Pakistan couldn’t be fastened because of two reasons. Firstly, Russia isn’t inclined towards Pakistan due to its long-lasting relationship with India and secondly Russians believe that some Chechen commanders who are at war with Russia are harboring in the tribal areas of Pakistan bordering the Durand line”, said Senator Mushahid Hussian Syed in an exclusive interview with monthly Economic Affairs.
As a matter of fact Pakistan itself is a victim of external intervention, facing the backlash of global war on terror going on in neighboring Afghanistan, said Mr. Mushahid and added, if any Chechen fighters are hiding in tribal areas, it is against the will of the state and Pakistan has already lodged war against the foreign elements hiding in the tribal belt. It is very clear that Pakistan is not going to tolerate or harbor any elements which destabilize its relationship with neighboring countries. However, the mistrust caused due to these non-state elements is a minus factor in Pak-Russia relationship.
The legacy of cold war still overshadows the relationship. Both the countries missed a lot of opportunities to grow together due to this mistrust only as they do not have any other fundamental conflict of interest, he continued.
During the cold war era, India successfully remained aligned with the Soviet Union as well as with the United States, whereas Pakistan kept itself limited to relations with the US. If India had maintained equal relations with the Americans and Russians then why couldn’t Pakistan do that? he questioned. After the disintegration of Soviet Union, a new phase of friendship started amid Pakistan and Russia. In 1992, the Russian Vice President, Alexander Rutskoy’s visit to Pakistan was a step forward, showing Russia’s willingness to foster relations with Pakistan. Unfortunately, Pakistan didn’t responded positively as there should be a follow-up visit from her side therefore missing the opportunity to turn its relations with Russia friendly, which could also bring in economic benefits.
However, Mushahid said, “President Musharraf and Zardari made good attempts to bring Pakistan and Russia back on track. In my opinion, Pakistan should nurture its relations with Russia as it would be beneficial to both countries. Having Russians as allies can help in various fields that could be helpful in strengthening Pakistan’s economy.” For example, Russia can provide technology as well as financial assistance to revamp Pakistan Steel Mills, it can help Pakistan in oil and gas exploration, as you may know Russia’s, Gazprom is one of world’s biggest oil companies, he said. However, said Mushahid, all this requires shift in our foreign policy and political will.
While reconciling relations with Russia, Senator said, our foreign policy managers should keep in mind that the Indo-Russian relationship is very strong and could be a major factor hampering development of relations between Pakistan and Russia. Particularly, India may resist the defense cooperation between the two countries, he said.
We should remember that during President Ayub’s regime in 1968, India got very upset when Soviet Union decided to sell arms to Pakistan. So, I am sure that if Pakistan moves forward to develop good political and economic relations with Russia, the phase will come when we buy arms from her”, he said.
After the disintegration of Soviet Union and particularly after the incident of 9/11, policies of both countries have changed significantly with regards to regional context. Recently, Pakistan has been able to develop good relations with President Karzai while the Russians also have some communication with the Afghan Taliban, which they didn’t have before. “I don’t foresee any conflict in the policies of both countries with regards to situation in Afghanistan after the US draw-down”, he said.
Russia has political interest in stability of Afghanistan, but they would be unconformable with the export of any sort of terrorism from Afghanistan to Central Asia and the region falls under its immediate sphere of influence, he said. Russia has troops in Tajikistan, bases in Kyrgyzstan, and they have lot of economic interest in Central Asia. Russians are worried about the situation in Afghanistan and increasing influence of Taliban and their possible relation with fighters in Chechnya, Dagestan and other Muslim areas of Russia could have adverse effects on region, he said.
Suggesting the way forward in Pak Russia relations, Mushahid recommends that Pakistan should move through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and should seek Russia’s help in becoming a member of SCO which would be helpful in order to improve relations with Russia.
Almas Haider Naqvi is an Islamabad based Journalist currently pursuing M.phil research on Pak-Russia rapprochement, challenges and prospects.