Pakistan-Russia relations

Pakistan-Russia relations in the post-Cold War era

Asif Manzoor

Russia is the past superpower (USSR) of the Cold War era since 1947 to 1989. This short article will try to sum up the relations between Pakistan and Russia since the inception of Pakistan. When Pakistan was born there was a start of the Cold War between the USSR (Russia leading state) and the US.

The USSR was the champions of international communism while the US was championing the capitalism. Pakistan early decided to jumped into the US camp. Where the Islamic intelligentsia was providing shelter to the idea of capitalism as close to Islam. There were also myths that Stalin had invited Liaquat Ali Khan and later denied that visit. The coming lines will shed some light on the theoretical aspects, historical aspect, post-Cold war era and current situation of the Pakistan-Russia relations.

There are two theoretical perspective of Pakistan-Russia relations. One is the theory of political realism and the other one is the theory of complex interdependence. The theory of political realism explains the geo-political situation of the relations between these two countries. The theory of complex interdependence which belongs to the liberal school of thought explains the emerging international and world order explains trade relations. In order to understand the historical background of Pakistan-Russia relations one has to look through the prism or lens of political realism. If one looks into post-Cold War realities one look into complex interdependence. If current situation is in the analysis both the theories of political realism and complex interdependence are considered.

Pakistan-Soviet Union (USSR) relations are a relation between a hostile superpower and a weak small power but geo-politically very strong. During the Cold War Pakistan remained key strategic ally of the Western countries (SEATO and CENTO). Russia -the main architect of USSR- looked Pakistan into a broader term of South Asian countries. Indo-Pak hostile relations have been a discord in Pakistan-USSR relations. Russia’s closeness during the Cold War with India can not be liked in Pakistani establishment. Though the US was close to India and still close to India due to the rise of China.  Economically, Russia or the USSR invested in Pakistan Steel Mill (PSM) Karachi.

The end of the Cold War happened in 1989 whilst the USSR remained united. On 21 December 1991 the dissolution of the USSR happened. The start of the post-Cold War era started from 1989 and the post-Soviet era started from almost 1992. In the Cold War Russia was a strong stabilizer in South Asia (after 1965 war) while in the post-Cold War era Russia was weak stabilizer in South Asia. Pakistan-Russia relations are based on new geo-political realities rather on historical realities between two countries.

Russian’s trade interest was remained on to sell arms to India and to some extent Pakistan. The important developments in Pakistan-Russia relations in the post-Cold War era are high-level visits to each other country. The issues of mutual interest and concern were remained terrorism, enhanced cultural exchanges (in the form of Russian scholarships to Pakistani students) and economic cooperation.

Most important element in view of South Asian strategic stability was Russian selling arms to Pakistan in the post-Cold War era. Russia and Pakistan have institutionalized their relationship by establishing three working groups on consultative strategic stability, joint working group on Counter-terrorism and inter-governmental commission of mutual concern and benefit during Musharraf’s historic visit to Russian in February 2003. China and Russia happily accord recognition to Pakistan at the joining of SCO. Russian President Putin cancelled his visit to Pakistan. Pakistan’s Army Chief General Kayani visited Russia two times in 2009 and 2012 respectively. 

The overall strategic calculation of Russia-Pakistan relations is seemed to be better than the history of Pakistan-Soviet Union relations in politico-strategic dimensions.

Posted in