Amid the redrawing of geopolitical alliances after the Cold War, Russia will be holding its first ever military exercise with Pakistan later this year. Russia’s relations with Pakistan have been improving at all levels (Political, Economic and Defence) in the last decade. Politically, their relations have been elevated to the level of Presidents which was not the case earlier. Economically, Russia will be investing around USD 2 billion in Pakistan for the Karachi-Lahore gas pipeline. In the defence sector, Russia announced sale of four MI-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan in 2015 while its Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force have visited Moscow in recent years.
There are a number of factors that explain Russian rapprochement with Pakistan. Amid the reduced US-NATO presence in Afghanistan, Russia is trying to appease the Pakistani military so that its interests are not affected in Afghanistan. Chechen militants have been fighting in Afghanistan and their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas has been a bone of contention between the two countries in the past. Also, Taliban, when in power in Afghanistan, had recognized Chechnya as an independent state in 1998, which had irked Moscow. Hence, Russia wants to secure its interests in Afghanistan by warming up to the Pakistan Army, the enfant terrible in Afghanistan.
India’s recent closeness to the US and their growing defence ties have also played a role in this rapprochement. Russia’s South Asia policy is moving towards more balanced view of Pakistan and is also aimed at weaning it away from the US. India’s recent policy of isolating Pakistan at international level is at odds with Russia’s current intensified engagement with Pakistan. Also, the proposed sale of further weapons to Pakistan will be against Indian interests, as these weapons will be used against India. While India would not be averse to Russia’s increasing leverage over Pakistan as it has a history of mediating between Islamabad and New Delhi (Tashkent Summit after Indo-Pak war in 1965), it should not come at the cost of Indian security concerns. These issues will be discussed when Indian PM Narendra Modi meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at their annual summit at Goa next month on sidelines of the BRICS summit.
The link to the article on Russia-Pakistan military exercise: