An agreement signed between Pakistan and Russia to increase defence and military cooperation is being seen as a sign of realignment in the region which brings India closer to the US and Pakistan to Russia and China, officials said in Islamabad.
A senior foreign ministry official said that the visit of the Russian defence minister to Islamabad where he signed the agreement came after years of low profile diplomatic activity.
This is the first such visit by a Russian defence minister in decades and shows that Pakistan has once again turned to Russia for its arms requirements. It was in the 1960’s that Pakistan had previously talked to the Russian government for material help.
Following those meetings, the Russians had built the country’s first steel mills in Karachi. In between, Pakistan and Russia cooperated on the development of a fighter jet that was built in China.
However, Indian sources said what is going on between Russia and Pakistan is not “deepening of ties with a heavy military or strategic intent.” “What we know is Russia is concerned about the growth threat from Islamic terrorism. So they wanted to reach out to Pakistan to build bridges. We don’t see anything strategically over- significant here,” said a source.
Two years back Russian President Putin was supposed to visit Pakistan but the visit was cancelled due to protests in Pakistan on an unrelated issue. However, both President Musharraf and then President Zardari made visits to Russia.
“What is significant is that the Russian defence minister came to Islamabad from China,” said the official who asked not to be named.
“There is a unanimity of views over Afghanistan and how things will play out after the US withdraws from the region,” said the official. There is also a growing concern in Pakistan over the improvement of relations between India and the US. The latest being the proposed visit by President Obama to India early next year.