Pak-Russia relations: Path to SCO membership

By Nasurullah Brohi

The recent developments of Pak-Russia ties, and in the wake the visit of Russian Defense Minister General Sergey Shoigu to Pakistan resulting in  unprecedented defense cooperation agreements are some of turning points of Pak – Russia relations. Forgetting the bitter past, when the quandary of Pakistan’s alignment to the Western interests that demanded Pakistan to become an ally and consequently, the relationship with the Russian Federation suffered greatly.

However, the future brings immense opportunities for both to collectively exploit the wherewithal of their valuable and efficient collaboration for larger mutual developments. During Soviet era, Pakistan had greatly benefited from the mega-cooperation projects like Pakistan Steel Mills in 1970. Recently, the Russian Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Factory (MMK) is also interested in increased production and up-gradation of Pakistan Steel Mills. Russia also offers Pakistan with the highly needed solutions to its energy crisis by investing through Russian energy giant Gazprom. Moreover, Russia plans to satisfy region’s energy needs through connecting the Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan by a power strip.

In addition, Pakistan is eagerly pursuing its full membership in the the great economic and energy potential of Russia-China led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and its pledge as an eventual energy and
trade corridor for the region, its close strategic and economic associations with China and developing relations with Russia are greatest aspects favoring Pakistan’s chances to become permanent member of the SCO.

The current political scenario of the South and Central Asia along with the states in Eurasian region aspires many states to enthusiastically seek opportunities of binding themselves in collective beneficial cooperation organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization holds a significant importance in the developments and cooperation currently taking place in the Asian and Central Eurasian region. The cooperation mainly covers the areas of security, economic, energy, bilateral and multilateral ties between the SCO member states. In the contemporary regional and international political scenario China and Russia have leading ambitious roles in becoming dominant global political players and their collective effort for the reason makes Shanghai Cooperation Organization a golden opportunity for the small states of the region where they easily pursue their national policy objectives collectively. The Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO), formerly known as Shanghai Five that was originally created in 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions by the heads of states of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan was also a turning point in Sino-Russian relations and a new global economic and political order to counter the security and other challenges to region and specially to the member states.

SCO as a regional body is also likely to become a counter balance to NATO. The SCO incorporates cooperation on economic, cultural, security, military, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism. Pakistan is one of the most important countries falling in the SCO region- having immense geo-political and politico-economic capabilities. Pakistan has excellent friendly relationship to China whereas, looking at the Pakistan-Russia relations, both countries have a variety of common interests which could go further in strengthening of the trust and mutual benefit. Pakistan stands by the auxiliary enhancement of cooperation with other countries of the region, through the SCO forum to meet its economic and energy challenges and counter the threats of terrorism, radicalization and drug trafficking. Both sides stress over the need for persistence of impetus grown in the wake of Moscow conference and share similar views over the majority of international and cross­regional issues. The strong ties between Pakistan and Russia are in the best interest of regional stability and prosperity.

As energy politics is gaining momentum across the world, the SCO’s initiative mainly taken by Russia for providing support to energy projects in different countries is a benign opportunity for Pakistan. At present, gas politics is also gaining rate of knots across the world and the establishment of the energy club is being actively backed by Russia and China under SCO umbrella. Russia is keenly willing to support Pakistan in implementing energy projects, but due to the US influencing attitude, the projects get cold response. “The question now is, whether the membership in SCO will also assist in resolution of the explosive flashpoints in Asia like Afghanistan and Kashmir that are one of the keyl national and foreign policy objectives of Pakistan.

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Nasurullah Brohi

Nasurullah Brohi works as a Research Fellow at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad and can be reached at [email protected]

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