Pakistan’s membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is seemingly bearing fruit, as Russia has announced a joint military drill with Pakistan in 2016. These ‘special drills in mountainous terrain’ are the first joint military drills undertaken by the two countries in history. It remains to be seen how Saudi Arabia – Pakistan’s age-old ally and partner in the newly-formed anti-terror coalition – will take this news, considering that it is engaged in a proxy war against Russia in Syria. While the kingdom has rejected Russia’s offer of mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubeir stated that that Riyadh would like improved ties with Moscow; a welcome development given the recent issues Russia has had with Turkey, another Saudi ally.

A strong relationship with Russia can be used to counter Pakistan’s dependency on Western powers, particularly its reliance on the US for the supply of arms, aid and other military assistance. Growing resentment against Pakistan in the power circles of Washington, coupled with increased hostility if a Republican candidate comes to power with the Presidential elections in 2016, make it necessary for Pakistan to keep its options open when making friends. The China connection is already one that benefits Pakistan greatly; and adding Russia to this equation serves to benefit Asia as a whole. Indeed, Russia’s decision to hold military exercises with both India and Pakistan is in itself a first; a close relationship with one subcontinent neighbour normally spells trouble for the other. However, this will not be the case on this occasion, as Russia seems committed to make an Asian power bloc that can successfully counter the West. And although it is entirely too early to predict just when the Indo-Pak relationship will change for the better, the attempts made by Pakistan have been honest.

The power balance of the world has been steadily shifting. A strong bloc in Asia, with Russia, China, Pakistan and India as allies would change the global scenario significantly. The $ 2.5 billion government-to-government LNG pipeline deal between Russia and Pakistan is an example of how the relationship will not only limit itself to military support. CPEC, the TAPI pipeline, the Iran-Pak pipeline and now this LNG pipeline with Russia are only further reasons for Pakistan to keep improving on relations with countries that are close by. The government must be praised for its diplomatic endeavours, because prioritising on improving ties with countries in close proximity was one of PML-N’s promises before coming in to power. Pakistan is getting many opportunities to improve its standing in the global stage in 2016; one can only hope that it uses them to the best of its advantage.