Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Islamabad to meet his counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and other senior members of the ruling administration, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Many things have been discussed and issues have been put forth to start searching for solutions in what looks ready to be a new strategic relationship, one that has been eluding Pakistan and Russia for decades, especially since our decisive role in the Cold War, which saw the Soviet Union defeated in its designs on Afghanistan. Ms Khar and Mr Lavrov were on the same page during their talks when it came to condemning US drone strikes as unlawful and against the sovereignty of the country, and counter-productive means in the war on terror. That Russia and Pakistan are on the same page where a tactic employed by Pakistan’s original ally in the war on terror – the US – is concerned should serve as an interesting prelude to what may just be a new geostrategic partnership in a region that has not seen many friends. In addition, the two foreign ministers reiterated that their respective countries were looking forward to dynamic economic cooperation in the days ahead, signalling that Russia and Pakistan were looking towards maintaining a relationship for the long haul. Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed and promises made on improving economic relations and maintaining regular contact to combat terrorism and drug trafficking.
This trip by the Russian foreign minister is no ordinary visit. Pakistan was originally expecting Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit this week in what would have been the first visit of a Russian head of state to Pakistan. This was an extremely anticipated visit, one that was raising the eyebrows of many an international observer. However, Putin cancelled the trip, citing a tight domestic schedule. This started off a round of speculation and crazed theories both at home and abroad. It seems that Sergei Lavrov’s hastily arranged two-day trip has been to reassure Pakistan that Russia has still left the door open for full strategic and economic relations, signalling a new era of foreign policy and alliances with promises of the Russian president visiting Pakistan very soon. This should not come as a surprise with the US’s 2014 withdrawal date from Afghanistan looming round the corner. Pakistan is well known as the centre through which all bases are covered and main routes are accessible when it comes to Afghanistan. Without Pakistan’s involvement, access to Afghanistan’s troubled political, cultural and geographical structures is near impossible. Hence, while Russia has been known to ally with India and Pakistan has been known to ally with the US where the war-torn country is concerned, there seems to be a new model in the making, one that is being watched with bated breath.
In a rather unique ‘coincidence’, COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is in Russia meeting his Russian counterparts and discussing different aspects of military cooperation between the two nations. No doubt, a lot of effort is being put into rectifying any fallout from Putin’s cancelled visit and discussing all aspects of a post-2014 Afghanistan. All in all, these meetings really do signal a new chapter in the long stuck alliances that have, so far, been shaping the landscape of this region. Pakistan is doing the wise thing by finally deciding to stack its eggs in a couple of different baskets. By exploring our options we too are opening the door to regional participation at a time when we will need all the friends that we can get. It is hoped that these friendly overtures develop into long lasting, meaningful ties that benefit both nations as well as a very troubled, very ravaged Afghanistan. – Dailytimes