The growing Russian presence in South Asia

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Islamabad on 6th April, 2021 after a gap of nearly nine years. The delegation has said to have arrived carrying a message exclusively from Vladimir Putin himself. Despite being a closed door meeting some officials have stated that the Russian President has offered Pakistan a blank check and are open for any cooperation that Pakistan needs. The blank check means that Russia is seeking to establish bilateral ties with Pakistan not only in some particular sector, rather it hopes to extend economic, defense as well as political help that Pakistan needs. With India in its immediate neighbor, Pakistan can definitely benefit from this friendship. If Pakistan is able to acquire Russian air defense systems, it would be a game changer for the region. The North-South gas pipeline project agreement from Karachi to Lahore was signed in 2015 costing nearly $2 billion. The project could not be initiated due to the American sanctions but with this partnership, Pakistan can finally finish the pipeline which will open new prospects and opportunities for Pakistan. Similarly, this would also prove good for Pakistan Steel Mill in Karachi and to pull it out of its current financial crisis. Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan can also use Russian expertise to modernize our railway system as well as our energy sector. During the current Covid-19 pandemic, Pakistan is also seeking help from Russia and using the Sputnik V vaccine.  With Pakistan’s declining relations with US, it is also seeking to find new allies in order to compensate the US assistance. Relations between Pakistan and Russia have undergone many transformations in the past decade. Pakistan cannot rely on US or China alone because of their conditional cooperation and especially when their assistance to India can cause a serious security dilemma in the region. Similarly, the Indian tilt towards the US is a concern for Russia as well as it poses a threat to its interests in the South Asian region.

Russia has finally taken the role of a great power and is aiming to ensure peace and stability in the South Asian region. It has asked Pakistan for cooperation in assuring peace process in Afghanistan now that US is withdrawing from it. With Chinas Belt and Road Initiative and its growing influence throughout the region, Russia is trying to reconciliate its relations with the South Asian nations for dominance. We see that the US foreign policy expanded in no other region more than in the middle east, especially Israel. Washington provides financial, diplomatic as well as military support to Israel despite its violations of international law and human rights in Palestine. Russia is supposedly going to intervene in this issue as well. Along with the Afghan conflict, Russia is also committed to facilitate a dialogue between Palestine and Israel. Russia is aiming to become a player for stability on the global stage and is targeting all the hot spots and major conflict zones in Middle East and Asian region.

In terms of future prospects, this friendship is going to help Pakistan stand back on its feet. The visit of the Foreign Minister will prove fruitful for their relations as Pakistan is looking for new avenues. It is no surprise that Pakistan has been in a financial crisis never seen before. There is a big hole in the foreign currency reserves and Pakistan is forced to seek loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia which are further increasing its debt. Forming bilateral ties with Russia would open new markets for Pakistan. It would increase Pakistan’s economic self-sufficiency, diplomatic influence and domestic conditions. For Russia, it would gain a potential ally because of Pakistan’s geostrategic position. Russia will not only get a gateway to Afghanistan but it would also legitimize Russian power and authority over the region.

Amna Naveed
Amna Naveed
Amna Naveed is an undergraduate student of International Relations at National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She is a freelance content writer and a keen learner who enjoys analyzing and writing about current affairs, world politics and diplomatic relations.