The relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, despite the numerous attempts to revive them, are falling apart. Therefore, establishing close cooperation with Pakistan will give Russia a real chance to gain a foothold in Central and South Asia. In addition, Russia will be able to access the Indian Ocean, and make the U.S. troops in Afghanistan directly dependent on its logistics.
The constant and rude attempts of the United States to interfere in the internal affairs of a nuclear power raise overt anger in this country at all levels. An opinion poll conducted by Pew Research Center (USA) in the beginning of this year showed that 74 percent of Pakistanis view the U.S. as an "enemy." Not that long ago, the whole country was discussing the scandal connected with the resignation of the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. Husain Haqqani wrote a secret letter, in which he asked for help in preventing a military coup, which was allegedly plotted in Pakistan, and promised certain concessions in return.
But even this pro-American official said last week that the goals and priorities of the two countries would not be the same in near future. That is why, he said, the USA and Pakistan should give up their attempts to build a partnership and pay attention to their own interests instead. "If in 65 years we haven't been able to find sufficient common reasons to live together ... It may be better to find friendship outside the family ties," Haqqani told Reuters.
The brazen drone bombings of the Pakistani territory, the uncoordinated military operation to destroy Osama bin Laden, the accusations of supplying materials for Iran's nuclear program have prompted Pakistan to seek cooperation with Russia. A special envoy of the President of Russia visited Pakistan in May 2012. Putin himself accepted the invitation to come to Pakistan for a bilateral meeting in Islamabad, prior to the IV quadrilateral meeting on Afghanistan. The meeting is to be held in Islamabad on 26-27 September 2012 with the participation of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Russia. A new strategic partnership is brewing in the region.
Pakistan was one of three countries that officially recognized the power of Taliban movement in Afghanistan. There is no logic in the decision of the USA to make Pakistan its ally after 9/11. Indeed, Afghanistan and Pakistan are two brotherly nations. Ten billion dollars that the States invested in Pakistan's economy during ten years are not enough to make the country "sell and destroy itself," as Minister of Science and Technology Azam Khan Swati said.
In case of partnership with Pakistan, Russia could take control of the logistics of the U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. Russia already controls the Northern Distribution Network in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan that border on Afghanistan. If we add the southern routes from Karachi to Chaman and Torkham, then all deliveries will have to be coordinated through the Russian-Pakistani alliance.
If this scenario becomes reality, Russia will obtain enormous leverage over the United States. In one fell swoop, it will remove the Mideastern loop, which can not be tightened today just because of Iran. What is more, Russia will receive access to the Indian Ocean through the Arabian Sea and the ports of Gwadar or Karachi and then to the Strait of Hormuz, bypassing the alliance with Iran, which is not beneficial for Russia now.
In addition, Pakistan has been an observer at the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization - a regional international organization, founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) since 2005. One could go further on the geopolitical level, and make the country a permanent member of the SCO. Given that Afghanistan, India and Iran also look for partnerships in the bloc, one should welcome them as members too. The U.S. would thus face a dilemma: either give away South Asia for the SCO (to Russia and China that is) or try to retain the region at all costs.
With Pakistan's help, Russia would be able to control terrorist activities in Central Asia. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is the largest Islamist political organization in Central Asia. It is present in Afghanistan on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, and Pakistan's role could be crucial in the fight against this menace.
The Commander of Pakistan Air Force, Air Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, visited Russia in August. He told Thenews.com.pk portal that "it was a great visit with a positive result, and we can expect closer cooperation with Russia in the field of defense, particularly air defense." According to experts, Pakistan is interested in buying Mi-35 attack helicopters, Mi-17 transport helicopters, engines for JF-17 program, missile defense systems, submarines and so on.
Russia made another thoughtful decision as it offered Pakistan help in solving the country's energy crisis. Gazprom is ready to invest in Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, rather than in the risky TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which has the support of the United States. In addition, Russia's Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Factory (MMK), with 75 percent of shares, will help expand the capabilities of Pakistan Steel Mills from 1 million to 3 million tons of production a year. Pakistan, in turn, can provide access to mineral resources in Balochistan and the Thar coal deposit.
It is important to remember that Pakistan sits on the crossroads of east to west and north to south trade corridors, including the new Silk Road Project in South Asia, which the Americans cherish. Russia needs to firmly define its economic priorities and defend them strongly. If the resources are not needed, then one should keep the transportation routes of those resources under control. A mega breakthrough is possible in the future: the "Persian Gulf - Bering Strait" railroad. The road will cross the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Turksib and the Trans-Asian Railway from China to Europe.
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