Zubin Bhatnagar writes: While the US recently commended the role of Pakistan in battling the scourge of terrorism, a reflection of Pak’s indispensability in US war against terrorism in Afghanistan; Moscow’s decision to hold no more war games with Pakistan Army, exposes Pakistan’s duplicity and its policy of state sponsored terrorism.
In a significant decision, the Russian Government has decided not to hold any more bilateral military exercises with Pakistan. The decision was taken by Moscow given the strong reactions from India after Russia conducted its first ever counter-terrorism military exercise with Pakistan called ‘Druzhba 2016’ about the time when India conducted surgical strikes along the Line of Control. Russian sources also clarified that they believe Pakistan is a breeding ground for terrorism and Moscow will strongly support India in its fight against terrorism[i]. “For better trust and understanding we do not plan to repeat such exercises with Pakistan as it was not received well in India,” highly-placed sources in the Russian Government have reportedly told ‘The Pioneer’ [ii].
However, ironically, just recently the US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis had commended the sacriﬁces and resilience of the people and armed forces of Pakistan, and appreciated the role Pakistan Army has played in battling the scourge of terrorism; its role in fighting militants in FATA and recent support for efforts to defeat ISIS-Khorasan Province[iii].
India and Russia have historically shared a multi-dimensional and strong partnership. During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) enjoyed a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship. After the collapse of the USSR, Russia inherited the close relationship with India, even as India improved its relations with the West after the end of the Cold War. The erstwhile Soviet Union and now Russia have stood by India on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir over several difficult decades, vetoing one sided UN Security Council resolutions many a times. India too has been a valuable partner for erstwhile Soviet Union and now Russia. India and Russia share similar views on most matters of international concern.
Moscow’s decision to hold no more war games with Pakistan, is a reflection of ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between India and Russia. However, more importantly it is a reflection of failure of Pakistan’s military diplomacy and exposes the complexity of Pakistan’s policy of state sponsored terrorism, a scourge which today threatens not only India in particular but the whole of South Asia with ramifications on global peace and stability.
Russian decision is a reflection of its sensitivities in the larger context. It highlights the fundamental difference between the US and Russia on their approach towards dealing with the scourge of terrorism. The decision is a reflection of Russia’s views on Pakistan’s lack of desire to reign in the terror outfits (contrary to US views) which has resulted in resurgence of Taliban and destabilisation of Af-Pak region. The region is also witnessing a rise of ISIS; a cause of major concern for Russia. However, Russia’s belief that it can take help from Taliban or other terror groups in the region to stem in the ISIS is a worrisome development for India with long term consequences.
It is here that India needs to step in, exploit the momentum set in and use its intimate friendship with Russia to convince them on the larger ramifications of involving the Taliban in the ongoing Af-Pak imbroglio. Peace and stability in South Asia demands that India further step up its endeavours with both the US and Russia to isolate Pakistan; and play a lead role to facilitate synergy and crafting of a regional solution with support from international stakeholders.