Pakistan and Russia Sign Defence and Military Cooperation Agreement
Paper No. 5826 Dated 21-Nov-2014
By Dr Subhash Kapila
Pakistan and Russia signed a ‘Defence and Military Cooperation Agreement’ on November 20 in Rawalpindi during the significantly first-ever visit of a Russian Defence Minister to Pakistan in the changing security environment.
Coming as it does virtually on the eve of the visit of the Russian President to India, what does one in India read in the latest political signalling by Russia in South Asia? Was India kept in the loop by Russia of the signing of the ‘Defence and Military Cooperation Agreement’ with Pakistan? Is it just connected with the impending exit of US Forces from Afghanistan or is it a recasting of its strategic blueprint by Russia in South Asia? The Indian policy establishment needs to decipher this.
Significant was a statement in the Pakistani media quoted in inverted commas attributing it to the Russian Defence Minister extolling the Pakistan Army for its role in combatting terrorism and that today the whole world wants to do business with Pakistan. Is it reflective of Russia’s changed perceptions on Pakistan and Pakistan Army?
The Russian Defence Minister Serge Shoigyo and the Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had wide ranging discussions on security issues preceding the signing of this Agreement not in Islamabad, the seat of the Government, but in Rawalpindi the location of Pakistan Army GHQ.
Intriguingly, for just a one-day visit to Pakistan, the Russian Defence Minister was accompanied by a 41 member delegation.
No details of the Agreement have been released in the public domain but media reports indicate that it also covers a wide range of military equipment. The supply of Russian MI-35 Transport/Combat Helicopters was specifically mentioned. The Russian envoy to Pakistan later stated that the deal to supply Russian MI-35 helicopters stood “politically approved” and that price negotiations would now be underway.
The Russian Defence Minister also had a meeting with Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif who expressed appreciation for Russian support in Pakistan’s’ full-membership of the China-Centric Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Increase in trade ties was also stressed besides greater engagement on discussion of regional and international security issues.
In a curious coincidence of timings, the Russian Defence Minister’s visit to Pakistan and signing the ‘Defence and Military Cooperation Agreement’ between Pakistan and Russia was taking place while the Pakistan Army Chief, General Sharif’s visit to United States was ongoing.
Obviously, the spadework for this Agreement would then have been undertaken much in advance of Pak Army Chief’s visit to USA.
Importantly, IATR TASS reported that Russia had lifted the arms embargo on Pakistan and this would facilitate supply of wide range of military equipment to Pakistan Army.
In connection with the above the Pakistani media highlighted that Russia had in effect downgraded India in terms of its military relationship from one of “Exclusive Military and Technical Partner” to one of “Preferred Partner”. The media attributed this downgradation to India’s increased defence purchases from USA.
Russia in the past at different occasions has been engaged in political signalling reverberations to India that it has other options in South Asia.
Could China have goaded Russia towards signing a ‘Defence and Military Cooperation Agreement’ with Pakistan in light of the unfolding dynamics in Afghanistan?
Whatever be the case, this development does inject some strategic doubts in those who believe that the Russia-India Strategic Partnership is a significant and enduring one.
Strangely, Indian media does not seem to have highlighted this development proclaimed by Pakistan as “a milestone achievement” and a “landmark cooperation pact”.
(Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army (Brigadier), Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)