The Foreign Policy Shift: Pakistan-Russia Defence Deal

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The Russian interest in being an arms supplier to Pakistan is shaping the strategic dimensions of the regional politics very complex to understand. There may be many perspectives and dimensions to this development but I would like to cover only two dimensions. Firstly how this deal will affect the international key players and secondly what is the response of India to this strategic development. The military cooperation between Pakistan and Russia was present in the past but not of significant nature so what are the reasons which forced both the states into this kind of strategic cooperation?

According to the recent development in Pak-Russia agreement, details of which are still being kept secret by both sides, Russia has agreed to supply 20 Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan. The Mi-35 is the export version of the Mi-24 helicopter gunship. Weighing 12 tonnes, the helicopter gunship also has a cargo area that can hold up to eight people besides carrying rockets, missiles, bombs as well as , automatic cannon.

Firstly, considering the international scenario Russia is always feeling insecure about the US-Pakistan relations from every perspective. Like all other states Russia is also a spectator of post 2014 Afghanistan and it is understood that the importance of Pakistan will increase in post 2014 scenario. To secure its interest in post 2014 context this military deal of Russia will serve its good purpose. Another fruit of thought that I would like to add here is that Pakistan needs a trust worthy supplier and not the one who left in the hour of need.

The interests of Beijing and Moscow are on the same page in stable Afghanistan. Both the states are worried that if U-S and NATO led forces left Afghanistan what will be the situation if the Islamic fundamentalism spills over the entire region? To secure their strategic interests, therefore they are keenly interested to improve their ties with Islamabad.

In contrast to this Pakistani side has learnt many lessons from being a part in US led war on terror. This war on terror has limited the foreign policy options for Pakistan. But now Pakistani side is realizing their importance and strength and has decided to diversify its foreign policy options.

Indian side is panicking with this deal because India is one of the largest customers of Russia when it comes to arms dealing. Ignoring all the threats given by Indian side the Russians finally decided to lift ban from military supplies to Pakistan. This deal will open up new doors of ease for Pakistan from which it can fulfil its military requirement but on the same time it is causing unease for India as the Indian never wanted Pakistan to fulfil its requirements this easily.

The decision makers, both in Islamabad and Moscow, seem to have learnt their lessons. Therefore, the two countries should act in the way to attain maximum benefit and should decide not to remain hostage to how Washington and Delhi react to their warming ties, which is a good omen not only for Pakistan and Russia but for the whole region.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ISS or of the Government of Pakistan.