By Ehsan Mehmood Khan
“There are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” noted William Clay, a US Congressman in 1992. Albeit applicable in all spheres of human life, Clay’s dictum is particularly relevant to interstate relations. Foreign policy, indeed, is based on national interests and transforms with the change in policies. Thus, foreign policy per se is nothing but depiction of internal policy of a state in that it endeavours to meet the national objectives and realize the vital national interests employing the strength of the foreign friends in combination with national resource potential. Therefore, foreign policy is an amalgam of economic, commerce, trade, energy, defence, cultural, educational, media and other policies of the state. That is how, economic policy takes form of economic diplomacy and defence policy transforms into defence diplomacy, and so on.
Diversification of foreign relations is a wish dream of each state in the world. Pakistan’s case is no different. However, Pakistan’s foreign policy became hostage to the bloc politics right at the birth of the country in 1947. Despite being part of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), Pakistan was seen as an inescapable constituent of the capitalist security bloc. This took Pakistan oceans away from the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries. The role played by Pakistan during the decade of the Soviet war in Afghanistan pushed it further away from the Kremlin. The distance of diplomacy persists even with the Russian Federation, the chief successor of the Soviet Union. Rest all is history.
The case of Pakistan and Russia in the domain of diplomacy is similar. On the one hand, owing to its relationship with the US, Pakistan is still seen to be virtually following a unidirectional foreign policy, albeit it does have a different stream of relationship with the Muslim World and the People’s Republic of China. On the other hand, Russia too suffers from the pitfalls of constraints and constrictions. Both need to form mutually beneficial relationship. If Islamabad has taken a policy decision to solidify its relations with Moscow, certainly it is not at the cost of its relations with Washington D.C. or Beijing. Likewise, Moscow’s desire to fortify its ties with Islamabad are not at the cost of its partnership with the others including New Delhi. Pakistan, on its part, would be able to expand its relationship with one of the most important countries of the world, whose political, diplomatic, economic, trade and energy support would surely help Pakistan manage domestic human security needs besides elevating its international stature. Russia, on the other hand, would find a market of over 180 million people wherein the Western economies have left a sort of vacuum for shying away from foreign direct investment on various pretexts. This investment vacuum can well be filled by Russia.
Albeit, there had been a period of diplomatic coldness due to the events of the Cold War involving Pakistan, yet, Islamabad-Moscow diplomatic gap has not been as wide as has been the Washington-Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) gulf of relations, courtesy the legacy of Vietnam War. After a 22-year official breakup of diplomatic ties following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, President Clinton proclaimed the formal normalisation of ties with Vietnam on July 11, 1995. In this backdrop, is it difficult to extend warmth to the Pakistan-Russia ties 24 years after the Geneva Accord signed on April 14, 1988, which paved way for Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan? Indeed, it is not only possible but also desirable.
Pakistan’s decision to strengthen ties with Russia, certainly, speaks of the voice of all institutions of the state including the polity and military. Civil society and media too seem have welcomed this step. Russia too seems to be giving a lot of importance to the emerging relationship and appears to be in endeavour to break the shackle of history. Visit by Pakistan’s Army Chief to Russia on invitation of his Russian counterpart exhibits will and resolve on part of the military (backed by the polity) in both countries. It is certainly a landmark leap on behalf of the Pakistani nation. Confidence built between the two militaries would, for sure, bring closer the two polities and societies too. Visit by Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Honourable Foreign Minister of Russian Federation bears testimony to the fact that it is not a diplomatic monologue on part of Pakistan. Let us wish well to the efforts of both Pakistan and Russia, and also play a part in our respective capacities as citizens of Pakistan and Russia.