By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Pakistan and Russia, after being at odds for a while seem to have realized that straining of relations and disengagement is not a solution when it comes to building bridges and developing new linkages. That is exactly what a Russian think-tank Dr. Vladimir Kozin expressed on February 27, 2018 during a seminar on SCO held under the aegis of Centre for Global and Strategic Studies (GSS) at the Islamabad Serena Hotel.
Dr. Kozin was of the view Pakistan and Russia are natural allies for the reason that both are located not only nearby but at a very strategic location.
Russia he said greatly values relations with Pakistan and wishes to strengthen this relationship in the days to come.
The Russian intellectual went a step ahead saying the US sees Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a major threat hence is hell bent upon creating fissures among the SCO member countries.
With this in context, the US over the years has exerted huge pressure on Pakistan on various pretexts – terrorism of course being at the top of the list.
The US he said never recognized or appreciated Pakistan’s massive efforts and endless sacrifices which it rendered in the war against terrorism. He hastened to add that Russia fully recognized all these efforts with Moscow looking forward to giving new dimensions to its relations with Pakistan.
The scholar was also very critical about India’s over inclination and upward trend in relations with the US, an aspect that is of grave concern to Moscow. He viewed that Islamabad had an ample space and opportunity of cultivating stronger links with Moscow. But the initiative has to come from Islamabad, he made it abundantly clear.
The SCO came into being in June 2001 to promote regional cooperation among the member countries and foster active political, economic and cultural environment.
The idea of establishment of this forum was to achieve progress in all spheres without the help and involvement of the US but afterwards it was transformed into a political alliance with both China and Russia trying to safeguard their regional as well global interests from the SCO platform.
Pakistan and Russian relations saw an end to the past bitterness for over half a century when President Pervez Musharraf visited Moscow in 2003, that was viewed very optimistically and paved the way for an all round improvement and a bright future of the relations with Russia.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz later visited Moscow on 26 October 2005 to participate in the 4th SCO Summit that discussed problems facing the member countries along with overall security situation of the region. This was the first presence of
Pakistan at the SCO after getting an observer status along with India, Iran and Mongolia. Both countries since then maintain closer links in all fields. Recent visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to woo Russians against American led move to put Pakistan in the watch list, in fact paid dividends with Russia extending expressive support to Pakistan.
As rightly mentioned by the Russian scholar, SCO needs to transform itself into a military alliance also with a view to keeping at bay the forces that see this bloc with ill-intentions.
Some years ago when relations between Pakistan and Russia were perhaps not as cordial as they are now, I suggested to the Russian ambassador that a visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan will surely contribute towards promotion of bilateral relations.
His reply was rather blunt. Let us have some common grounds and substantial reasons for the Russian president to come to Pakistan.
Present state of good will in the relations between the two countries ostensibly provides genuine reasons for the Russian president to pay an official visit to Pakistan.
Summing up, as rightly remarked by Dr. Kozin, despite the negative propaganda and anti-SCO approach of Trans-Atlantic countries, cooperation among SCO and regional countries should not stop.
The more these countries increase intra-state cooperation, the better it would be for the well-being of the organization and the region as a whole.