Indian Perspective: Russia, Pakistan make nice. Amen By M K Bhadrakumar


Russia, Pakistan make nice. Amen

By M K Bhadrakumar

3 Oct 2016


In rhythmic gymnastics, Russian diplomats are unbeatable. Russia has a strategic love affair with Iran but that doesn’t stop its diplomats from romancing with Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Israel. Russians call it ‘pragmatism’. Similarly, Azerbaijan-Armenia, China-Vietnam, Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan, Iran-Israel – the list of ‘pragmatic engagements’ is very impressive.

Now, after a gap of half a century, Russia is at it again in South Asia, becoming romantic toward Pakistan. We can only hope that Russia is not positioning itself to host another ‘Tashkent summit’.

The Indian government has done the right thing by ignoring the ongoing Russia-Pakistan military exercises. Moscow probably expected that Delhi will demand exclusive friendship. But then, we do not want a post-Soviet Russian mediation in our disputes with Pakistan.

The government’s coolness has paid off. The Russian ambassador in New Delhi Alexander Kadakin has spoken supportive of India — 5 days after India’s “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control. I wish Moscow had issued this statement instead of as the embassy’s press release for local publicity. For, in the best traditions of Russian diplomacy, what prevents their ambassador in Islamabad to say much the same quietly to the Pakistani side as well? (Times of India)

Post-Soviet Russia is a ‘de-ideologized’ state. Russia may have feared that incurring India’s displeasure will not be in its business interests. Moscow could be hoping to wrap up some arms deals during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in mid-October. Of course, selling weapons abroad is a matter of life and death for Russian economy, which is spluttering under western sanctions.

The Indian market is a highly lucrative one for Russians because the transactions take place in total secrecy between the two bureaucracies and political elites. They are opaque transactions and the pricing of Russian weaponry is arbitrary. Over the decades Russians have looked beyond the Congress Party and cultivated the range of Indian elites – from RSS to Samajwadi Party.

Indeed, what are the Russians really upto in South Asia? One can never quite be sure. Notwithstanding what Ambassador Kadakin said, the Russian state propaganda TV network, RT, which western countries regard as Kremlin-funded, carried only last week a triumphalist piece on the on-going Russian-Pakistani military exercises. Presumably, it was addressed to the Pakistanis.

The commentary boasted that this is a “historic moment” insofar as Russian army is exercising with a former “cold war rival”. Factually, it is correct. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence had bled the Red Army white in the eighties and driven it away across the Amu Darya. But Moscow finds it expedient to put that humiliating experience behind.

The RT commentary claims that the joint exercises between the two militaries signify “a shift towards closer Russo-Pakistani relations.” It then speaks of Russia and Pakistan’s shared “desire to fight militant groups on their territory”. Of course, the commentary admits that Russia hopes to make some fast buck by selling weapons to Pakistan as well.

What takes the breath away is the report’s ending:

·         The war games come at a time of renewed tension between Pakistan and India, a long-term Russian ally, over the disputed province of Kashmir. However, the exercises are being held far from the contested areas. (RT)

This is sheer sophistry. The plain truth is that the Russian Defence Ministry had originally announced in Moscow that the exercises in Pakistan would be partly held in Gilgit. Probably, they developed cold feet later, realizing  it might be too much for the Indians to lump. So, they quietly dropped Gilgit. Oh, these impossible Russians! No wonder, Barack Obama turned grey dealing with the Kremlin over Ukraine and Syria.

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