Perhaps for the first time since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistani options in global diplomatic ties are not completely polarised. A shake up of world power, a smattering of new conflict zones and a reshuffling of world leaders has presented a completely new picture for Pakistan to contemplate. On Thursday, the Russian defence minister arrived in Islamabad to discuss a more comprehensive bilateral defence partnership. This comes at the back of the recent Russian Deputy foreign minister visit along similar lines and a principle agreement for the sale of 20 Russian MI-35 helicopters, something Pakistan has sought since 2009. It is a far cry from the days Pakistan and the US were strategically inseparable in Afghanistan. This is not the only novel development; the Afghani government has approached Islamabad with an earnest reset in relations. The United States has strengthened its ties with India, subtly shifting the Indian stance towards Russia. There is a NATO drawback from Afghanistan, while the US military is reframing its relationship with its Pakistani counterpart. Iran is back on the negotiation table, and while a nuclear deal is not imminent it is definitely a possibility. The Crimean conflict has isolated Russia, which is facing European sanctions, while the ISIS behemoth is creating strange bedfellows in the Middle East. The only thing that is unsurprising is Pakistan’s continuing alliance with China and its eternal hostility towards India – something no one really expected to change.
While it is too soon to make predictions about a shift in the balance of power or even where future friendships might lie, it can be seen that there is no compelling factor pushing Pakistan into a specific direction. The Russian efforts may not ultimately bear fruit but they symbolize an eagerness to address new avenues, sound out new diplomatic options. Similarity, Iran and Afghanistan can be potential partners as the red tape is receding. For Pakistan, this is uncharted diplomatic territory , it has the option to meaningfully engage different global players on different terms, and perhaps once be out of the eye of the storm.