By Sajjad Shaukat
There are no permanent friends and enemies in international politics, because friendship and
enmity change in accordance with the states’ interests which are of primary importance.
After having strong relationship with the United States for more than 60 years, a shift has
occurred in Pak-US ties because of a number of reasons, and Pakistan has inclined towards the
Russian Federation which also needs the latter. Particularly, the US-led secret strategy which is
part of American double game compelled Pakistan to fortify its relations with Russia.
In this regard, an agreement has been signed on August 7, this year between Pakistan and Russia
for training of Pakistani troops in Russia, decided at culmination of first meeting of joint Military
Consultative Committee (JMCC) in Islamabad. Pakistan’s defence ties with Moscow are
growing strong with each passing day and this pact has opened new avenues of cooperation
between the two countries.
A desire from both sides has already been seen in the near past in boosting economic and political
relation. Obviously, these moves are seen with suspicion by the US and India including Israel.
The fact of the matter is that American President Donald Trump’s pro-Indian strategy and anti-
Pakistan policies have forced Islamabad to find new alliances. Earlier, America announced to stop
military training programmes with Pakistan. In this respect, Western media said, “The U.S. has stopped
financing military training in the U.S. for Pakistani soldiers…The effective suspension of Pakistan from
the US government’s International Military Education and Training program (IMET) will close off places
that had been set aside for 66 Pakistani officers this year.”
Pakistani officials warned it could push their military to further look to Russia and China.
Pakistan’s Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, Senator. Mushahid Hussain called the
American move “wrong and counterproductive” and said: “The U.S. is repeating past mistakes
through failed policy of trying to bully and browbeat Pakistan with such shortsighted sanctions.”
On August 3, the US Congress on approved a $716 billion defence authorization bill to cut
Pakistan's defence aid from $750 million to $150 million.
The Senate passed the conference report on National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA).
The bill then was sent to president Trump seeking his assent. Last year, US defence bill had authorized
a significant aid of $700 million for Pakistan under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) that has been reduced now.The defence policy bill backs President Donald Trump’s call for a bigger, stronger military and sidestepping a
potential battle with the White House over technology from major Chinese firms.
It is notable that in an interview with CNBC television on July 30, this year, the US Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo warned on that any potential International Monetary Fund bailout for
Pakistan’s new government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders. Pompeo
elaborated that the United States looked forward to engagement with the government of
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, but there was “no rationale” for a bailout that pays
off Chinese loans to Pakistan.
Islamabad has dismissed America’s concerns that any new International Monetary Fund bailout
for the nation would be used to repay Chinese debt as “totally wrong”.
It is mentionable that soon after the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the general
elections of 2018, China agreed to further US$ 2 billion loan to aid its foreign currency reserves,
something which cites trust in the new government. The Chairman of PTI, Imran Khan
emphasized close ties with Beijing and the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic
This comes timely as Pakistan continues to face strained relationships with the
US government, and does not want to rely on the IMF for a bail-out. Chinese announcement
caused Pakistan’s rupee to jump the most in nearly a decade, as Khan is likely to take power with
an economy in chaos. Beijing has stepped up to reinforce a geopolitical alliance which shapes the
South Asian nation’s policies towards the US and India which are following a secret strategy
against Islamabad. The gesture speaks to Pakistan’s overwhelming reliance on China as a source
of financial, diplomatic and military support at a time when US President Donald Trump has cut
military aid to Islamabad.
Besides China, coming Prime Minister Imran Khan also wants to strengthen Pakistan’s relation
with Russia and Iran.
As regards Pak-Russian ties, in this connection, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General General
Javed Bajwa arrived in Russia for two-day visit on April 24, this year. It was General Bajwa’s
first visit to Russia.
The statement of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said, “Chief of Army Staff
(COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Russia…where he met with Commander of
Russian Federation Ground Forces Colonel General Oleg Salyukov at the Kremlin
Palace…During the meeting, the Russian ground forces commander acknowledged
achievements of Pakistan Army in fight against terrorism and contributions for regional
peace and stability. Colonel General Salyukov said that Pakistan is a geo-strategically
important country and Russia is keen to expand its existing bilateral military-to-military
cooperation…The COAS thanked the Russian commander and said that Pakistan
reciprocates desire of enhanced bilateral military engagements. General Bajwa said that
Russia has recently played a positive role to help resolve complex situations in the region.”
However, during the meetings between the top military and security leadership of the two
countries, Pakistan and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to intensify and expand bilateral
In his meeting with the Gen. Qamar Javed, Russian Ground Forces Commander-in-Chief
Colonel General Oleg Salyukov said his country was interested in expanding the existing
military cooperation with Pakistan. Gen Bajwa, too, expressed Pakistan’s desire to enhance
bilateral military engagements with Russia.
The two countries had in February, 2018 agreed to set up a military cooperation commission for
promoting military cooperation. Both sides had signed a defence cooperation agreement in
November 2014 and later inked military-technical cooperation accord, which allows arms trade
between the two countries and cooperation in weapon development, in October 2015.
Gen. Bajwa told the Russian Ground Forces commander that Pakistan would continue to play its
part to “keep conflicts away from the region and seek approaches which bring regional
convergences into play rather than divergences”.
The press service of the Russian Security Council reported that in their meeting, “issues of
bilateral military cooperation in information security and countering international terrorism were
The army chief’s trip was preceded by the visit of National Security Adviser retired Lt. Gen.
Nasser Janjua to Russia. His meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev
resulted in an understanding that the security cooperation between the two countries needed a
The latest developments suggest that the engagement is all set to accelerate. According to a
Russian source, an intense programme has been developed for this year.
The rapprochement between the previous Cold War adversaries was driven by Russian concerns
about instability in Afghanistan. Islamabad and Moscow share common opinion that the
presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan failed to restore stability in the country.
Speaking to Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Gen Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov,
Gen. Bajwa stated: “Pakistan wants to get out of the zero-sum dynamics of Cold War era that is
still prevalent in South Asia…We have no hostile designs towards any country and will keep on
working towards a cooperative regional framework based on sovereign equality and mutual
progress through connectivity.
Gen Gerasimov said Russia supported Pakistan’s efforts towards reconciliation and peace in
Afghanistan and it was willing to play a role towards that end.” He noted that Pakistan welcomed
any initiative which could bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and the whole region would
benefit from it.
Notably, in 2002, the 7th meeting of the Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic
Stability was held in Moscow. The two sides had discussed matters of mutual interest relating to
international issues, including arms control, nonproliferation and counter-terrorism.
On May 12, 2011, Islamabad and Moscow agreed to promote trade, investment and joint projects
particularly in energy, infrastructure development, metal industry and agriculture. Rissia has
shown special interest in energy projects. A working group of both countries had met in October,
2011 to explore cooperation in this sector. Islamabad is interested in Russian investment in its oil
and gas sectors as well as in heavy industries.
Russia has offered Pakistan counter-terrorism equipments. The package includes 10 MI-17
helicopters of unarmed configuration. When Russian military Chief Col-Gen. Alexander
Postnikov visited Pakistan in May 2011, he discussed with the former Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani—the possibility of expanding defence ties by holding joint military exercises,
exchanging trainees and trainers and selling and buying weapons. Moscow has also offered to
sell Sukhoi Superjet 100, a modern aircraft with a capacity of up to 95 passengers, while
upgradation of Pakistan Steel Mills by Russia is being finalized
In the recent past, it was the first time that joint military exercises were conducted between the
two countries in Pakistan.
Cordial relations with Moscow suit Islamabad’s long-term strategic interests, as it seeks to
diversify resources, especially in view of continuing problems with Washington that has hitherto
been its biggest supplier.
During the Cold War, Pakistan was allied with the United States and the former Soviet Union
backed India. However, Soviet Union’s arms sales to New Delhi and criticism of Pakistan’s
position in the 1971 war with India weakened bilateral relations.
The U-2 incident in 1960—US spy plane was shot down by the former Russia and the pilot was
captured alive. The fact that the plane flew from Pakistani territory enraged the Soviet Union.
The Soviets threatened to bomb the Pakistani base if future missions were flown from it. In
relation to the incident, Pakistani General Khalid Mahmud Arif had stated, “Pakistan felt
deceived because the US had kept her in the dark about such clandestine spy operations launched
from Pakistan’s territory.”
In 1974, the then Prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited Moscow. For the first time in the
history, Soviet Union’s ties with Pakistan began to warm. His talks prompted the former Russia
to establish steel mill in Karachi on its own expanse. However, after the American CIA
orchestrated removal of Bhutto, tensions began to mount with General Zia-ul-Haq who opposed
Soviet Union ideologically.
The two countries were bitter enemies in the 1980s when Pakistan became a frontline state of the
US-led war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan—and also during the Taliban’s rule in
Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
After Pakistan joined US war against terrorism in 2001, Russia vowed its support for
Islamabad’s fight against the Taliban militants. In 2007, the relations between Pakistan and
Russia were reactivated after the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
It is of particular attention that in 2010, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had stated that
Russia was against developing strategic and military ties with Pakistan because of its desires to
place emphasis on strategic ties with India. But Moscow changed its policy in 2011 when Putin
publicly endorsed Pakistan bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and
remarked that Pakistan was a very important partner in South Asia and the Muslim world for
Russia. In the recent years, besides, various annual summits of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation which includes Russia, China and four Central Asian states including Pakistan and
Iran, on 16 August 2007, in their summit, the leaders of the SCO displayed strength against the
US rising dominance in the region and military presence in Afghanistan, near the region of
It is noteworthy that on June 9, 20, Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting
with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of SCO summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
President Putin stated that Pakistan is an important partner for Russia in South Asia and
congratulated the then Prime Minister Sharif on Pakistan’s full membership to the SCO. Putin
elaborated, “Russian-Pakistani relations have been constructive and mutually beneficial…our
relations are developing in many areas, and our trade has increased.”
In a major development, Russia has offered its support for Pakistan’s entry into a free trade
agreement with Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), of which Russia is a leading member.
The disqualified Prime Minister Sharif who thanked the Russian Federation for supporting
Pakistan’s full membership in the SCO, said, “The SCO gives us a powerful platform for
partnerships to promote peace, build trust and spur economic development for shared
prosperity…it helps us all combat terrorism…expansion of the SCO has taken place at an
opportune time, as China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative has transformed the global economic
landscape…in Pakistan, we are diligently implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,
which is a flag of the OBOR.”
Nevertheless, Pak-Russian trajectory cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of various
developments in the region.
In this context, to bolster its strategic contest with China and Russia, the US is moving towards a
military alliance with India. America which is backing Indian hegemony in Asia, especially to
counterbalance China is supplying New Delhi latest weapons, arms and aircraft.
During ex-President Barack Obama’s second visit to India, the Washington and New Delhi had
announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply India
with civilian nuclear technology, as agreed upon in 2008. During Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi’s first visit to America, President Obama had strongly assured him to favour
India’s membership in the coming meeting of the Nuclear Supplier Group. Earlier, Washington
also pressurized the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) to sign an accord of specific
safeguards with India. America had already contacted the NSG to grant a waiver to India for
starting civil nuclear trade on larger scale.
During his trip to the USA, Prime Minister Modi’s first meeting with the American President
Donald Trump held on June 27, 2017. Both the leaders pledged to work together to boost their
respective economies and other fields. Besides, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi
pledged to deepen defence and security cooperation, building on the US’s recognition of India as
a major defence partner. The president also thanked India for seeking a $2 billion arms deal with
the United States for 22 naval surveillance drones.
Trump said, “The relationship between the United States and India is very, very strong and very,
very powerful.” While, ignoring ground realities that the US-led Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW
are sponsoring terrorism in Asia and Western countries, in the joint statement, Trump hailed
pledges of closer cooperation between India and the United States, especially in the fight against
the Islamic State group (Also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh).
In fact, since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, the country has become
center of the intelligence agencies such as CIA, RAW and Mossad which are in connivance to
obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China
and Pakistan, including Iran. Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these foreign agencies which
are also in collaboration with Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security
(NDS) support the militants of ISIS and Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),
including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and
Pakistan as part of the secret strategy of the US-led countries. Besides, these terrorist groups are
weakening Tibetan regions of China and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan through subversive
Apart from Islamabad, the US has also accused Iran and Russia of assisting the Taliban in
Afghanistan. The main purpose of Washington is not only to pacify their people and justify the
unending war in Afghanistan, but also to fulfill the secret strategic designs against Russia, China,
Pakistan and Iran.
Trump has so far focused on outreach to China, India’s strategic rival, as he also initiated a trade
war with China. However, the joint statement of Trump and Modi also indicated that Washington
and New Delhi share concerns about North Korea’s missile programme and China’s rise as a
It is of particular attention that India was openly opposing the CPEC and China’s One Belt, One
Road (OBOR) initiative; the US also joined New Delhi. In this connection, on October 3,
2017, the then US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Lawmakers, “The United States has
reiterated its support for India’s opposition to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative…the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a part of which traverses Pakistan-Kashmir.”
Islamabad strongly rejected the statement from the American defence chief that the multibillion-
dollar road and rail network CPEC which is part of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative,
passes through a disputed territory of Kashmir, urging the international community to focus on
blatant human rights violations and ‘heinous crimes’ committed by Indian occupation forces in
the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), and reminded the US that Washington had also
participated in an OBOR summit.
Earlier, a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry also dismissed Mattis’ statement, saying
that the OBOR plan was backed by the United Nations and that CPEC was an economic
cooperation initiative. Russia also supports the OBOR and CPEC.
It is worth-mentioning that the US and India do not want to see peace and prosperity in the
region. Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral
Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader
Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan. After the incident, Afghan
Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government.
While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad
and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an
understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan
government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 16 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
During the sixth Heart of Asia Conference which was held in the Indian city of Amritsar on
December 3 and 4, 2016 proved fruitless in achieving its goals due to secret diplomacy of the
US, India and Afghanistan owing to the blame game, especially of New Delhi and Kabul against
Islamabad. In his opening remarks, following American secret diplomacy in Asia, in his frenzy
and ferocious speech, Indian Prime Minister Modi had lashed out at Pakistan on terrorism as the
central subject of the moot.
Speaking in the Indian tone, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also accused Pakistan of providing
sanctuary to terrorists and cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan.
Addressing the conference, Russian envoy Zamir Kabulov had rejected the Indian and Afghan
allegations against Pakistan. He stated that Afghanistan is the pivot of the conference and the
agenda of the conference should not be hijacked. He added that being friends and supporters, we
should avoid the blame game and work together. He also said that Pakistan’s Adviser to the
Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz’s speech at the conference was friendly and
Earlier, due to the double game of the US and failure of the QCG, China, Russia and Pakistan
held secretary-level trilateral talks in Moscow on December 27, 2016 and discussed regional
stability, including the restoration of peace in Afghanistan. The meeting also discussed anti-
terrorism cooperation amid growing influence of the ISIL in the region and a peace process
between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
It is noteworthy that the American President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear
deal and is following war-mongering diplomacy against Tehran, while Israel is also doing the
same against Iran. Hence, Iran could abandon the US-backed India-Afghanistan Chabahar
project and could join the CPEC project.
There are also some other reasons which resulted into close relationship between Islamabad
and Moscow. Notably, in the recent years, unbridgeable trust deficit existed between
Pakistan and the United States because of America’s double game with Islamabad. But,
President Trump’s flawed strategy in South Asia, based upon anti-Pakistan moves, has taken
the Pakistan-US ties to point of no return.
During the heightened days of the Cold War, despite Pakistan’s membership of the US
sponsored military alliances SEATO and CENTO, including Pak-US bilateral military
agreement, America did not come to help Pakistan against India which separated the East
Pakistan in 1971.
After the end of the Cold War, the US left both Pakistan and Afghanistan to face the fallout of
the Afghan war 1. By manipulating the nuclear programme of Islamabad, the US imposed
various sanctions on Pakistan.
But, after the 9/11 tragedy, America, again, needed Pakistan’s help and President George W.
Bush insisted upon Islamabad to join the US global war on terror. Pakistan was also granted the
status of non-NATO ally by America due to the early successes, achieved by Pakistan’s Army
and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) against the Al-Qaeda militants.
Within a few years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they are failing in coping with the
stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, they started accusing Pak Army and ISI of
supporting the Afghan Taliban. They constantly emphasized upon Pakistan to do more against
the militants and continued the CIA-operated drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas by ignoring
the internal backlash in the country.
Reviving the double game as part of anti-Pakistan approach, President Donald Trump stated in
his tweet on January 1, this year, “The US has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in
aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our
leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help.
Weeks earlier of this tweet, while, unveiling national security strategy, Trump had said, “We
make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help.”
In his speech on August 21, 2017, while announcing the US new strategy regarding Afghanistan
as part of the policy in South Asia, President Donald Trump, particularly, singled out Pakistan
for criticism. Using tough words against the US ally Pakistan, Trump revived the old blame
game of his predecessors Bush and Obama regarding the cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan
by saying Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist
organizations”, and threatened to target the terrorists’ sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Trump stated, “We have been paying Pakistan billions of dollars, at the same time, they are
housing the very terrorists we are fighting…that must change immediately.”
Regarding Pakistan’s regional rival India, Donald Trump added, “We appreciate India’s
important contributions to stability in Afghanistan…We want them to help us more with
Meanwhile, on January 5, 2018, the US suspended $255 million of military aid to Islamabad as a
condition to do more against terrorism.
Taking cognizance of the latest tweet of the President Trump, Pakistan’s civil and military
leaders, including all the mainstream political parties united against the US aggressive stance
against the country and offered a stark response to Trump’s false accusations.
The then Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif remarked, “Terrorist sanctuaries are
present in East Afghanistan. It is from these safe havens inside Afghanistan that terrorist attacks
are being launched on Pakistan…The claim by Trump regarding the funds, if we account for it,
they include reimbursements too for the services rendered by Pakistan…Our land, roads, rail
and, other different kinds of services were used for which we were reimbursed.”
According to the earlier statement of the ISPR, “Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar
Javed Bajwa stated that “Pakistan was not looking for any material or financial assistance from
USA but trust, understanding and acknowledgement of our contributions…peace in Afghanistan
is as important for Pakistan as for any other country.”
Overtly, American high officials remark that they seek stability in Pakistan, while praising
military operations against terrorism, but covertly, they continue destabilizing it, especially with
the assistance of India as part of the anti-Pakistan, anti-China and anti-Russia diplomacy.
While, encouraged by the US President Trump, Indian Prime Minister Modi is flowing
aggressive diplomacy against Pakistan, and India has continued shelling in Pakistani side of
Kashmir which remains a nuclear flashpoint between both the neighbouring countries.
And various other developments such as Russia-Iran-Turkey alliance to fight the ISIS, and US
decision to dispatch more troops in Afghanistan etc. are equally notable.
Nonetheless, taking note of the US secret strategy, Islamabad which has already
strengthened its relations with Beijing has also been cultivating its ties with Russia. In this
respect, Former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has openly stated that Islamabad will prefer
Russia over America. In an interview to the “The Wall Street Journal” on January 5, 2018,
Khawaja Asif said, “He sees his country’s alliance with the US as over after the Trump
administration announced the suspension of U.S. security-related aid to Pakistan…This is n’ot
how allies behave.”
Pakistan is also improving its relations with Iran. In the end of last year, Pakistan’s Chief of
Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa paid a visit to Tehran where he met Iranian civil and
military high officials.
We can conclude that the US-led secret strategy compelled Pakistan to fortify relations with
Russia, and Pak-Russian relations are part of the Russian-led China-Pakistan-Iran-Turkey
Note: I have revised and updated my similar article.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,
Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous