It did not come as a surprise that President Putin has decided not to come to Pakistan for the time being. The Russian mission in Islamabad had already indicated that performing the inauguration of the $2 billion North-South gas pipeline project was ‘not enough substance’ for the trip. Obviously, the President of Russia has better things to do than coming all the way to Pakistan to cut a ribbon.

Misplaced media hype made the decision sound like a death-knell for Pak-Russia cooperation which it clearly is not. In fact, it gives exactly the opposite message; that Russia would like to deepen cooperation beyond a $2b pipeline and add more substance to our relationship. It’s not as if Russia has decided to abandon the pipeline project which will most probably be inaugurated by the Russian ambassador now. Obviously, Russia has not withdrawn its extended hand of friendship. It is our leadership that needs to rise to the occasion and shake it.

The dynamics of geopolitics is nudging Russia and Pakistan towards each other and both stand to benefit tremendously through comprehensive mutual cooperation. A deep and multi-dimensional Pak-Russia friendship would be a big boost for peace and prosperity in our neighborhood and it would also speed up our journey towards a multi-polar world. President Putin understands this and has made the right gestures so far. It is our government that is twiddling its thumbs like a moron.

What is it that makes our government blind to Russia and all the goodness our friendship could bring? Why is it so difficult for our decision-makers to correct their qibla, to free themselves from imperialist tentacles of Washington and London and harmonise with the song of hope emanating in the neighborhood from Beijing and Moscow? Are the dollar-crumbs from the IMF really better than the boons a speedy integration in the SCO would bring?

The colonial hangover of those in charge of our destiny is the biggest disability when it comes to the much-needed re-orientation of our foreign policy. They are too busy following the imperial pied piper to be mindful of anything else. Quite like blindfolded greedy mice sniffing the trail of dollar-crumbs and driven by personal benefits, they have no vision or sense of national interest. Like willing slaves, they happily dance to the tune of their imperial masters. They know no other way.

If you think I’m exaggerating, think again. Why else would our government drag its feet to complete the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline even after the lifting of UN sanctions? When it comes to upgrading the air force, why does it keep circling the over-priced, outdated and manipulated F-16s? At whose behest is our prime minister pursuing a fraudulent peace agenda with India? What explains his blind love for the House of Saud? Clearly, there is more to it than personal gratitude.

As if they were made for each other, the foreign policy preferences of the Nawaz government have synchronised almost perfectly with the imperial game-plan. Our prime minister instinctively gravitates towards mini-me hegemons like Saudi Arabia and India being propped up by the US to assist it in its destabilising plans for the world, sponsoring and facilitating networks of proxy terrorists and subverting regional cooperation by pitting neighbour against neighbour.

Our prime minister’s inclination to play the imperial game has reduced the institutional framework for cooperation developed between Islamabad and Moscow in recent years to little more than window-dressing. It has cast shadows of controversy and delays over the CPEC. This servility to the empire is why our overtures towards the Central Asian states lack the required zeal, why we spurn cooperation with Iran for our energy needs. This is why our membership of the SCO has become just a slogan.

Had it not been for categorical inputs from the military leadership, we would be fighting the Saudi war of aggression against Yemen and India would be using a land-route to Afghanistan. Just what we need for fighting terrorism, right? Had it not been for the decision by the military leadership to commence Zarb-e-Azab and Zarb-e-Ahan, the Nawaz government would still be talking to TTP and protecting terrorists and their facilitators in Punjab in the name of democracy.

Clearly, our government is hopelessly stuck in deceptive imperial grooves. Its disability serves to dilute the momentum generated by the military leadership towards China and Russia, our genuine partners in building a better future for our region. Without this momentum, we would be sleep-walking into a sorry fate for our country not very different from Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s the future the US-led empire has planned for us.

What, after all, does Obama mean when he says that our region will remain unstable for decades? He doesn’t have a crystal ball, does he? What he actually means is that this is what the US and its partners plan to achieve. By staying put in Afghanistan, they would like to coordinate their terrorist proxies to brew trouble in neighbouring states. That includes not only Pakistan but also Iran, Central Asia, Russia and China. Could it be any clearer who our genuine partners are?

Putin is not only the President of Russia credited with saving his country from disaster and restoring its power and glory. His leadership is redefining the world and challenging the tyranny of the empire. China and Putin’s Russia are the two pillars on which the SCO and the dream of a multipolar world stands. Pak-Russia cooperation must be seen within this context. It is not simply bilateral but multiplies the strength of our ties with other countries in the region as well.

In any case, it’s not hard to add substance to Pak-Russia cooperation and welcome President Putin to Pakistan in a manner that befits his stature. To pave the way for his visit, we should have a list of mutually beneficial agreements ready; on counter-terrorism, defence and intelligence sharing, on trade and energy, on curbing the subversive activities of NGOs, on industrial development and sustainable non-GMO agriculture. I guess the military leadership will have to push the government on this one as well.