Vladimir Putin, the Ice Breaker

If Pakistan can maintain friendly relations with China, which, proverbially speaking, are higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the ocean and sweeter than honey, then relations with Russian Federation can also be warm, enlightening like sunshine and soothing like twilight.

On a very personal note, it can be stated that twenty million Muslims who believe firmly in the unity of Almighty Allah, the holy Quran and prophet-hood of Muhammad (PUBH) are as much practicing Muslims as those elsewhere in the world. There are, therefore, sufficient social, cultural, historical, linguistic, racial, genetic and religious links which serve as bridges to facilitate bilateral relations.

In addition to many more mutual experiences and close similarities than just mentioned above, it is mandatory to understand Vladimir Putin’s economics, politics and handling of current affairs, so as to find out tracks and dimensions for maintaining profound relations.

The Russian Federation today is not Soviet Union of 20th century. Of course, it has not rejected socialism in favour of capitalism, but Putin’s Russian Federation is overtly state capitalism, which means that state acts as corporation while having synergistically complete control and authority and the right to intervene when there is a national issue, especially of high concern.

The people of Russia do not spend time on discussion about ideology of dialectical materialism. They are more interested in searching avenues for economic engagement. They clearly understand that in Afghanistan, neither communism nor socialism was defeated by capitalism and democracy. They know that hard cash money is more real than abstract notions.

Russian Federation is run by a constitution, parliament; political parties, the opposition, budget and national policies exist there. Russians are proud to be Russians, and therefore, nationalism is supreme, but it is not fascism because of the presence of a free print and electronic media. As for Putin’s reputation, it is adulation, and not hero-worship.

With this brief preamble, the nature and impact of hugely improved Russia-China relationship, involvement is Ukrainian and Syrian Civil Wars, Russian economic strength owing to oil and gas and newly developed Pakistan-Russia relationship on geo-political dynamics can be studied clearly and precisely.

In the recent past, if Russia has lost Asian States, the US has also weakened. Resultantly, the inertia present in the US foreign policy provided opportunities to Putin for introducing stability in the country’s politico-economic affairs as well as playing a determined role at international level.

Russia has realised that its influence develops in presence of alliance with China. The border disputes between the two have been settled. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is expanding and dividends have started coming. Availability of oils from Kazakhstan where China has purchased oil companies is no danger for Russian Federation. At the same time, ethnic Russian minority living in Kazakhstan is so happy with President Noor Nazarbayev that they have nominated him for a Nobel Prize in 2013.

The energy deal with China covering a span of 30-year worth $400 billion in 2014 has been an achievement of enormous significance for both countries, especially for Russia as it will minimize the country’s dependence on Europe.

The sale of Russian oil to China is a useful business activity as Chinese worry also lessens when they have to send their world largest tanker to Saudi Arabia for the purpose. Even in a war situation, China won’t suffer for shortage of oil if it is intercepted in the Arabian Sea or oil companies stop supply to China, because safe transportation is available from Russia.

These are some of those realties why sanctions imposed by the US and its European allies against Russian Federation have lost their effectiveness.

Moreover, active strategic partnership is visible in Russian support of China in matters related to Taiwan and Tibet. Likewise, China keeps defending Russian policy pertaining to Caucasus. In response to the US recent interest in rebuilding some of its bases in the world, particularly in Far East, Putin has restarted working on the maintenance of military basis in the Arctic while the US reluctance to involve in the Arctic issue is another sign of aggravating inertia in US foreign policy. If the scope of Shanghai Cooperation Organization is extended from security matters of terrorism to nuclear technology, it will prove to be a major turn in the wheel of fortune.

The difference between gutsy and gritty Putin and a weak, inert Obama is apparent from their response in both Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts. It is a mark of Putin’s military genius that he kept on warning that the US interference would add fuel to fire in the Syrian situation. Another proof of Putin’s shrewdness is that Russian forces have completely entered in Syrian war by firing missiles from warships standing in the Caspian waters and using SU-34 aircraft for bombing over the Syrian rebels, but the Russian army is neither a threat to the US NATO allies nor to the US interests in Israel or the Gulf States.

Over and above, the Russian Federation claims that the targets are the same as those of the US because the Russian forces are fighting against ISIS terrorists who comprise an off-shoot of Al-Qaeda of Osama Bin Ladin’s notoriety. Furthermore, Russian proximity to Syria and even Iraq is a huge advantage which hampers the US from escalating military action despite the fact that its forces are stationed there; in a state of paralysis!

In view of the fast diminishing influence, the only options left with the US is to make peace with President Bashar Alassad. Secondly, the US must force Israel, the primary architect of discontent in the Middle East, to return all occupied lands which belonged to neighbouring countries before the Arab-Israel war in 1967.

The on-going article has reached a stage where the significance of Pakistan-Russia relationship should be brought home not only in view of benefits for the two great nations, but from the vantage point of regional and international peace and prosperity. After Pak-China economic corridor deal, the agreement signed by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Petroleum Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the laying of 1100-kilometre long pipeline with capacity of 12.4 billion cubic meters per annum from Karachi to Lahore is another landmark achievement to provide big boost to Pakistan economy.

This will supply imported LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) with $2 billon borrowed from Russia to be paid from profits within 25 years, after which Pakistan will gain total ownership rights, This agreement is indicative of melting ice from the promotion of long awaited cordial relations between the two countries.

Reprimanding a time-tested friend and rewarding the enemy is not principle of statecraft, neither of rational behaviour nor of social norms. After all, without balance of power in the region, Indian hegemony would cause extreme one-sidedness. It is, therefore, need of the hour for Pakistan to adjust to the rhythm of geopolitical dynamics.

Moreover, the people of Pakistan including industrial and agricultural elites will welcome moments of relief from their sufferings. The production of electricity around 3600 Megawatts is an authentic solution of energy shortfall which has caused a crisis almost of unimaginable stature. There is every hope that availability of gas directly from Russian Federation will further boost Pakistan economy while Russians will not care about sanctions as after effect of involvement in Ukraine crisis.

Hence, anyone at the negotiating table in the White House, Washington must keep in mind that the days are gone when Pakistan was given the Hopkins’ choice at 9/11. At present, the US policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine have met grand failure.

The US patronising of India will further reduce its influence in the Asian region. Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordon, Lebanon of Asian continent, Egypt, Libya of Africa, Bosnia, Germany of Europe and many Latin American countries have not forgotten the disasters unleashed upon them.

No one can control anyone for all times with stick because freedom and survival are primary instinctual rights. Only dignified reciprocal response is the basis of healthy bilateral relationship, which Vladimir Putin, the ice-breaker par excellence, is holding paramount in international interactions.

The writer is a Lahore-based educationist

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