The Chief of Army Staff’s visit to Russia on 3 October corresponds with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich visit to Pakistan for bilateral consultations on the same day. Both these visits are important not only in removing the apprehensions and fallout of the cancellation of Mr Putin’s visit to Pakistan but also creating the much needed impression that Russia and Pakistan are determined to take forward their mutual relationship despite years of neglect in past for the collective benefit of both the countries as well as the region. Economic cooperation and peace and stability in the region seem to be the two vital areas in which both the States have agreed to cooperate.
Russia and Pakistan both are concerned with the likely future US strategy to manage the post 2014 stability in Afghanistan which has definite implications for both Russia and Pakistan. The manning of military bases with an appropriate force level by US may help improve security and shape the Afghan future but it may as well draw military actions from militant groups that may continue to refuse to accept the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil. Anyhow, any scenario in which the military presence of US in Afghanistan is weak will mean return to the Afghanistan of 1990’s. The consequences of which will have to be borne both by Russia and Pakistan. Russia does not want proliferation of conflict on its southern periphery. These conflicts may not be the external threats to Russia’s existence but Russia cannot afford to stay aloof from any developing conflicts especially when it has the military power and muscle to manage and control these conflicts in the region.
The role of Taliban and IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) in the post draw down Afghanistan should be a matter of great concern to all the joint stake holders. The IMU has declared a jihad against the government of Uzbekistan with its ultimate goal being to overthrow the government and establishing an Islamic state. This makes them the ideological brothers of TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan). Attacks planned and executed by IMU from Afghanistan’s territory on Uzbekistan in the North together with military operations being carried out by Taliban’s in the South is a ‘security dilemma’ that may be warranting the attention of all who are looking at taking measures to create a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. The defensive/offensive actions as well as the likely restrictions/limitations that can be imposed to control the movements of the militants on the north and south borders of Afghanistan will remain as the most important common challenge.
Moscow regards NATO’s superior strength in conventional forces as the external threat to Russia. Any US plans to occupy military bases in Afghanistan will not be welcomed by Russians. The strategic cooperation agreement that President Obama signed on May 1, 2012, with Afghanistan committed United States willingness to retain a military presence in country until 2024. With what force and by occupying how many military bases in Afghanistan no one is clear but what seems to be clear is that the growing Russian-Pakistani military and diplomatic cooperation may just be the outcome of the realization by Russia and Pakistan to build pressure on US to leave the region and leave the policing of the security in the region to the regional stakeholders alone. A very interesting twist in the new great game with hopefully positive outcomes for Pakistan