Pak-Russia Relations: Lost Opportunities and Future Options

By Hussain, Nazir | Journal of Political Studies, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Pak-Russia Relations: Lost Opportunities and Future Options

Hussain, Nazir, Journal of Political Studies


Pak-Russian relations have been marred by historical legacies, over-emphasized western dependence and Pakistan's Indo-centric approach. There have been many ups and downs in the history of their relations but most of the times they have perceived each other in negative mindset; Pakistan through the prism of western perception and the Soviets/Russia through the Indian eyes. Both countries have strong potential to improve their relations in the fast changing regional and global security environment but it depends how both countries utilize the new opportunities knocking their doors. Russian Federation is reasserting its role in its immediate sphere of influence and beyond, and Pakistan is looking for new avenues of opportunities in the face of US/western standoff. Therefore, both have geopolitical and strategic compulsions to improve their relations.

Key Words: Pakistan, Russia, United States, policy, power

Going back to the roots and analyzing theoretically, the history of Pak-Russia relations is a tale of misperceptions and lost opportunities. International political history is a western discourse; it is not intended here to go through the delicate discussion of post-modernism, especially of Michael Foucault, and demonstrate that knowledge is a function of the present power. In fact, here, it is just to highlight the obvious lack of rationality in the pursuit of Pakistan's foreign policy towards Russia. Rationality can simply be defined as a state understands its 'real' interests and a 'sincere' conduct of its foreign policy in realization of them.

Pak-Russian relations have often been under-rated, despite strong potentials, mainly due to misperceived notions and mindsets. There have been many opportunities to improve their relations but were lost due to different approaches to regional and global security perceptions. It is interesting to note that there is not a single bilateral issue between the two countries that divides them. Russian Federation is the inheritor of Soviet mantle; studded with strong nationalism, historical strength, geopolitical outreach and great power status. On the other hand, Pakistan's proximity to Afghanistan and Central Asia, nuclear power status and growing anti-Americanism, have great potential for renewed Russian interest in Pakistan. However, both the policy practices and academic approaches in Pakistan were/are instrumental in neglecting this vital area of country's foreign policy. Therefore, this paper is an attempt to highlight the importance of Pak-Russia relations through historical analysis and lost opportunities. The study also emphasizes the future options for Pakistan in the light of 'revisiting' and 'revamping' of Pakistan's foreign policy.

Critical Assumptions

While analyzing the Pak-Russia relations, it is important to understand some underlying assumptions in Pakistan's strategic thinking shaping its foreign policy.

The Colonial Legacy: Pakistan's foreign policy is mainly shaped by its colonial legacy of being a part of the British Empire. The over-riding emphasis of Pakistani elite, feudality, bureaucracy and military, led to the pro-western approach in its foreign policy dealings. Therefore, Pakistan preferred a distant ally over an immediate neighbor; making a choice between the US and former USSR. Many observed that rationally speaking, it would have been more in the interest of Pakistan to rely on the tangible help of Russia that was just a border away than over the US that was continent apart. But, it is a history that Pakistan delayed the acceptance of the Soviet invitation and 'managed' to get a similar offer from the US and accepted it in no time (Sattar, 2007, April 12).

Cause for this choice is interestingly in the colonial past of this country. It is a matter of fact that Britain was once the greatest imperial power of the world. After the World War II, it lost its power and could not hold on to its possessions. Thenceforth, the US replaced Britain as the protector of the free liberal world, but in its own fashion. …

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