Improved military relations between Russia and Pakistan: The purpose, significance, and the impact

Russia and Pakistan's fast-moving rapprochement over the years is endorsed at the highest levels of their leadership.

The flags of Russia and Pakistan

According to media reports, Russian-Pakistani joint anti-terrorist drills have recently commenced in the southern Krasnodar Region. Following the drills, the Chairman of the Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Nadeem Raza, held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Chief of the Russian General Staff and Deputy Defence Minister Army General Valery Gerasimov in Moscow.

What happened during the meeting?

Praising Pakistan, the Russian host said:

Pakistan is one of the few countries with which military cooperation is developing very actively this year, despite the complex epidemiological situation.

Addressing General Nadeem Raza, the two Russian military leaders also discussed their participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) multilateral drills and bilateral naval interactions held earlier this year.

A 2020 banner of Pakistan Russia Joint Military Exercise

Russian-Pakistani Military Relations

The military relations between Russia and Pakistan have gradually been improving over the years. This improvement is primarily driven by shared Afghan-emanating terrorist threats and other unconventional security threats such as the so-called “Weapons of Mass Migration”.

It is pertinent to mention that India is very sensitive about Russia’s Weapons of Mass Migration. However, Russia hasn’t done anything to infringe upon its national security interests.

Why do the two countries only have military ties?

Yearly joint military drills and the provisioning of appropriate equipment are why Russian-Pakistani ties are primarily concentrated in the anti-terrorist sphere. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pledged to continue strengthening these relations during his historic trip to Islamabad in April.

Russia and Pakistan’s fast-moving rapprochement over the years is endorsed at the highest levels of their leadership. One of the most defining moments of the two country’s relationship was the Khan-Putin Phone Call.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin standing together

The Khan-Putin Phone Call

Prime Minister Imran Khan received a telephone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin last month. The two leaders discussed the latest situation in Afghanistan and other matters.

According to details, this was Putin’s second telephone call in less than three weeks. Earlier, the Russian president called Imran Khan on the 25th of August. In the second phone call, the two leaders exchanged views on the latest developments in Afghanistan, bilateral cooperation, and collaboration within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

This conversation was the first time Russia showed that it relies on Pakistan to advance its regional and national security interests, maintaining that trust has been built between the respective governments. According to media reports, the Islamabad intelligence summit held in mid-September, which brought together the Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and a few Central Asian chiefs, showed that the trust between the country’s military-intelligence forces had come a long way.

Experts believe that cordial relations between the countries are a result of:

  • Russia and Pakistan’s political coordination on the Moscow peace process for Afghanistan;
  • their earlier agreement to construct the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP);
  • the possibility of February’s agreement to construct a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway enabling Russia to reach the Indian Ocean; and
  • their military diplomacy for containing Afghan-emanating threats, which importantly helped them overcome the bitter legacy of their 1980s proxy war.

A soldier holding Russia and Pakistan's flags

Future of Russian-Pakistani Relations

Experts believe that Russia and Pakistan might probably have remained rivals instead of becoming promising potential strategic partners if they hadn’t come together in pursuit of shared national security interests. Their military diplomacy vis-a-vis Afghanistan also occupies a special significance to the respective governments. Russia’s respective representatives now consider their Pakistani counterparts to be trusted partners.

Recently, General Gerasimov praised Pakistan for actively developing military cooperation with Russia over the past year despite the pandemic. This pronouncement has caught the attention of India and the US. However, experts state that these countries shouldn’t fear anything since Russian-Pakistani military ties aren’t aimed against any third country.

Sources state that the trust built between Russia and Pakistan’s military-intelligence representatives has laid the bedrock for the further development of bilateral relations between these countries. Experts believe that the two countries will strengthen their association in political, energy, and connectivity terms now. Only time will unveil what outcome these endeavors bring for Russia and Pakistan.

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