Prof Nirmala Joshi
The decision by Russia to end its arms embargo on weapon sales to Pakistan must be viewed in the broader context of impending withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Russia has agreed to supply Mi-35 attack helicopters primarily to augment Pakistan’s capacity to counter the likely escalation of insurgency in the region. By and large analysts agree that, despite the withdrawal of coalition forces, insurgency will not fade away. Although there are differences about its scale, it is well known that , Chechen, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz extremists among others are located in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA ) , where they are trained in the use of arms, and taught jihadi propaganda . Russia’s attempt is not only to bolster Pakistan’s capacity to face the new geopolitical situation but also to seek Pakistan’s cooperation in gathering more information about these extremists in Pakistan. Secondly Russia is concerned about the stability of the Central Asian Republics, for any destabilization of Central Asia would impact adversely on energy rich Russian regions adjoining Central Asia. At the same time the deal is symbolic of a shift in Russia’s regional policy towards South Asia. As the draw down date nears the significance of Pakistan in Russia’s security calculus has increased. Besides arms supplies constitutes an important source of revenue in Russian economy. India’s attempt to diversify its sources of defence procurement, could have led Russia to also re- consider diversification of its arms market. At present, however, the deal has greater strategic significance, and should not be perceived as a zero sum game between India and Pakistan. The projected rise of China and India as ‘Asian powers ‘, and the changing geopolitics of the Asian region could have been a factor in Russian policy to raise the level of its engagement with Pakistan. Russia is also offering to invest in Pakistan’s economy, The Dushanbe Four a forum established in 2009 for electricity trade has Russia, Tajikistan , Afghanistan and Pakistan as its Members ,but not India and China are indicators of Russian desire to chalk an independent approach to South Asia . Whether the projected arms sales to Pakistan is an isolated instance or the beginning of a trend in Russian policy, only time will tell. ——————————————————————————————————————————- -Professor Normala Joshi is Research Advisor at the United Service Institution of India and a former Professor at the Centre for Russian and Centraaal Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawahalal Nehru Universiyt, New Delhi.