Russia seems to want to explore the avenues of cooperation that are opening up with Pakistan while maintaining ties with India. This is probably the reason Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, is in India on a preparatory visit to New Delhi for President Vladimir Putin’s November visit, clarified that Russia would not sell arms to Pakistan. While talking to the press on Sunday, Mr Rogozin said, “We are always cooperating with India to ensure safety of the region.” This he said despite India cosying up to the US of late, after having spent the Cold War on the side of the USSR. This also succeeded the visits of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Islamabad and of Pakistani COAS Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to Moscow, which showed the possibilities of Pak-Russian cooperation, especially if Pakistan ceased its longtime reliance on the USA. However, Russia must not ignore the fact that one reason for its disaffection with the USA is that the latter has been an unreliable arms supplier. If it intends to do the same, indeed to give India a veto on Russian arms supplies to Pakistan, it should not expect Pakistan to take this lightly. It must also keep in mind that Pakistan and Russia have not brought any arms deals to fruition, and the need it feels to address Indian concerns in advance are commonly reported to be part of the same sentiment which led President Putin to postpone his visit to Islamabad. Pakistan not only wants a diversity of its arsenal, but it also needs Russian arms to achieve a compatibility of inventory with China, with which it is jointly producing arms, and which has obtained much arms technology from Russia.

The Russian assumption that Indian dictation amounts to the ‘safety of the region’ is also disappointing to Pakistani policymakers. With this approach, it is not possible for Russia to change its uncritical acceptance of Indian regional hegemonism and aggression, a carryover from the Cold War. It should realise that peace in South Asia means peace in its neighbourhood, and thus involves its region. It must not put all its eggs in the Indian basket if it wishes to stabilize the region, where it must take positions independent of India on regional issues.

Pakistan should realise that its attempt to develop ties with Russia will be met resistance from the USA, but also from India, which will resist every initiative aimed at Pakistan developing as strong a diplomatic lobby in the international community as it itself holds.