Uncle Sam is no longer Pakistan’s favourite super power! In fact, Pakistan is now dismissing the US as a ‘declining power’! Hard to believe??? With the America increasingly reprimanding Pakistan for its inability to check terrorism, the country is now looking to ‘abandon’ the US in favour of China and Russia! The shift in strategy also comes amidst the Narendra Modi government’s aggressive and effective moves to isolate Pakistan on the international stage. Fearing further isolation, Pakistan is now striving to woo Russia and establish economic and defence ties with India’s “all-weather ally”.
Pakistan has always turned a deaf ear to any calls by the international community to check the multiplying safe havens for terrorists, instead choosing to play the victim card. It has always gone pleading its case to the US, seeking aid in the name of countering terrorism. But, it seems that the US is now losing the status of being Pakistan’s favourite shoulder to cry on. Indeed it appears that for Pakistan, US is the ‘declining power’ that need not be entertained or paid heed to! A recent statement by Nawaz Sharif’s Special Kashmir Envoy, Mushahid Hussain Syed, stands testimony to this strategic shift. “(The) US is no longer a world power. It is a declining power. Forget about it,” Mushahid Hussain Syed is reported to have said.
Instead the government and military in Pakistan have over the years moved closer and still closer to China, banking on the regional ally to check India’s responses. And now, Pakistan is trying to add another strong player to its equation – Russia. The country is actively working to build ties with Russia, seeking its investments and promising to be a market for its defence products. A report in PTI suggests that Mushahid Hussain Syed has warned US that Pakistan would move towards China and Russia if its views on Kashmir and India are not considered. “There has been slow and steady building of relationship between Moscow and Islamabad,” he said, adding that Russia has for the first time agreed to sell arms to Pakistan.
Recently, for the first time Russian troops landed in Pakistan for a joint military exercise between the two countries. The exercises came amidst mounting tensions between India and Pakistan after the Uri terror attack. And while Russia has sought to assure India that the exercises are not taking place in any disputed territory, the very fact that it decided to go ahead with the drills after the Uri attack signal a change in Russia’s attitude. Pakistan is also mulling buying advanced Russian warplanes. Not only that, it has also invited Russia to join the CASA-1000 project for the transmission of thermal energy. Reports suggest that the two countries have already agreed to talk on a 600MW gas-fired power plant at Jamshoro to be built with investment from Russia.
As far as China goes, Pakistan has always been close to this regional ally. Not only has China supported Pakistan on international forums, even pushing its case on NSG and blocking India’s move to ban Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar. On the economic front, around $46 billion investment has been pledged by China for the CPEC that runs through that area. CPEC or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will link the Xinjiang Province, through PoK, to the Gwadar Port in Balochistan. The corridor is expected to hugely contribute to the development of China’s Western province, and would give Pakistan a ‘protection’ in its bid to strengthen hold on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
While China has always been close to Pakistan, and is unlikely to change its strategy anytime soon, Russia’s shift, however small, should be a reason for worry for India. As Foreign Affairs expert C Raja Mohan recently wrote in a column in the Indian Express, “Some in Moscow may also bet that cosying up to Pakistan would help caution India against drawing too close to America. Others in Russia might point to the unintended consequence of pushing India into the arms of the US…At a moment of great turbulence in great power relations, Russia is rightly jockeying for position. This demands that Delhi must stop taking Moscow for granted.” Russia on its part seems to be striking a balance in its relations with India and Pakistan. While ‘welcoming’ India’s surgical strikes across LoC to destroy terror launch pads, the Putin government still seems reluctant to openly turn hostile towards Pakistan.