By Zainab Aziz
The international political structure is at the apex of transformation. Previously, an improbable combination of Pakistan, Russia and China is now changing into a powerful realignment either intended to bring a greater bipolarity in the world affairs or to challenge the hegemonic power of the US in the world. Strategic dimensions in the geopolitical world change at an astonishing speed, sometimes without the states knowing the repercussions it brings in the coming years. The same situation now seems to take place between the Cold war rivals Pakistan and Russia. Russia, being a traditional ally of India which reassured India’s stance on Kashmir every time is now showing evident indications of getting into closer relationships with Pakistan. Just when the China declined the international tribunal’s verdict over its claim on South China Sea, Russia declared to support China along with holding the joint naval exercises in the disputed sea. Moreover, Russia is boosting its military ties with Pakistan by carrying out joint military drills in September 2016 in Pakistan which was joined by some 200 soldiers of Russian army. China and Russian have been a long time strategic partners mainly because of their ideological clashes with the United States who became a common enemy to both the countries. For this reason Russia and China try to dwindle the US influence in their corresponding regions. The ingression of Pakistan in this matrix is sending out clear signs of fledgling friendship.
The apparent strategic interest of Russia behind the Russia-Pakistan-China axis seems to be for Moscow’s interest in getting more room for the advancement of its pivotal role than only re-balancing the region. Assessing the current political environment suggests that Moscow is not only hankering to counter the US supremacy in the region but also wants to dislodge the China’s status as the major countervailing force in the region. This Russian grand strategy devise a game plane involving the conglomeration of passive engagement (Pakistan and Iran), direct intervention (Syria and Ukraine) and crisis profiteering (Islamic State, South China Sea, Turkey) as the instruments of increasing influence of Russia in the Eurasia region.
As the Moscow manifested many times its interest in strengthening its ties with Beijing and Islamabad, a theory about the super power triangle of China, Pakistan and Russia is becoming more discernable. The reason that the China-Russia-Pakistan superpower triangle is becoming a reality (along with Russia’s status as the chief weapon supplier to India) would not only result in helping these countries to fight the menace of radicalism and terrorism but also to defy the United States’ increasing influence in the region. In point of fact, this alliance of Pakistan, China and Russia appears to be more intimidating force as all the three states are nuclear powers. According to the official figures provided by the SIPRI, around 7,620 nuclear warheads are possessed by the three states combined. This superpower triangle would possess a prodigious lead in war against any of its enemy, be it a US or India.
Contrary to the Americans, who always preach morals to the Eastern allies on almost everything from theological freedom to the democratic norms, Russia keeps aside the morality and its perception in the international politics while focusing on achieving its strategic interests. This became apparent in Russia’s recent military dill exercise with Pakistan despite India’s requests to stop the drills following the Uri terror attacks for which Pakistan was blamed while Islamabad denied these accusations.
As India took its traditional ally Russia for granted for a longer period of time, Moscow observed the growing ties of India with US patiently. Although Russia supported the US struggle to get India into the non-proliferation mainstream through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver and in the nuclear energy expansion (Haripur nuclear project), the balance started to change apparently when Russia was hit continuously by the burgeoning India-US relations. Moscow has been India’s most reliable friend and a largest defense partner for more than four decades since the 1971 Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty was signed in 1971. Though the Indian army faced difficulties after the disintegration of Soviet Union in the terms of obsolete arsenals, India kept on receiving military equipment from its all-weather friend, despite of Israel’s entry into it now.
On the other side, India is likely to get more involved in the US strategic ambit on various domains i-e sophisticated space technology, defense and nuclear technology. India has moved ahead by transcending the critical juncture of signing the strategic agreement of Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). For China, this agreement means an implicit military alliance of India and US against China in which India is specifically playing the hedging role. This situation convinced Moscow to review its time-tested friendship with the India.
In order to avoid international isolation, Pakistan has invited Russia to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to promote the expanding interaction within the axis. The Pakistan-Russia Rapprochement and their common bonding with China, in many ways, reiterates the Liaquat Ali Khan’s time and again repeated statement of 1949 that “Pakistan cannot afford to wait. She must take her friends where she finds them.” This statement at that time was intended to appease Moscow when Pakistan was dissatisfied with the Washington’s favourable inclinations towards Jawaharlal Nehru. The circumstances seems to have changed wholly as Pakistan confronts a similar strategic conditions now.
Zainab Aziz is a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan