Few can argue that the Pakistan-US friendship is souring day by day. While the Pakistan Army Special Services Groups (SSG) just concluded a nine-day exercise with US Special Forces, the growing divide between Pakistan and the US is only likely to widen after the November presidential elections. With Pakistan’s military needs still left wanting, the state’s decision to seek closer military ties with Russia by holding joint war games with the country is a step in the right direction. This is a first for us, because of a historical leaning towards the US. Roughly 200 military personnel will take part in the exercise later this year, though the exact nature of these exercises has yet to be announced.

The world’s political demographic is changing fast, and China’s rapidly growing influence would mean that the US has two large players in Asia that it cannot control, the other being its old arch-rival, Russia. If the US chooses to get close to India as a result of this, it is only natural that Pakistan accept which way the wind is blowing, and choose its friends carefully as well. Russia’s geographical proximity, military advancements and a potential alliance with China in the long run, make it the perfect military partner for Pakistan.

If anything, closer ties with Russia might serve to benefit Pakistan much more than our alliance with the US did in the long run. There has always been a sense of give and take in terms of defence between the US and Pakistan, where the US provides defence aid or weapons, only to get Pakistan to help its strategic alignment strategies in the Middle-East and South Asia. This will not be the case with Russia, which has left Afghanistan to its own devices, and has no business here.

The Cold War left our relationship with the Russians in an icy state, but 2015 saw a landmark deal conducted, where Pakistan was able to purchase four MI-35 attack helicopters from Russia. That was only the beginning, because Moscow holds the answer to all of Pakistan’s defence needs in the absence of the US.

The government needs to make sure that its relationship with Russia is prioritised, and is later expanded to feature greater trade ties as well, to cement a mutually beneficial partnership with the country, so that there is some incentive for Russia as well, especially since that the US will be probably gone by the end of the year.