Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Beneath the radar, a Russia-Pakistan entente takes shape

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Russian PM Putin shakes hands with Pakistan's PM Gillani during their meeting in St.Petersburg

One of the early calls that Vladimir Putin took following his expected victory in the Russian presidential election last weekend was from Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. He congratulated Putin on his success and invited him to visit Islamabad in September which the Russian leader accepted, according to newspaper reports citing an official statement.

It would be the first visit by a Russian head of state to Pakistan which stood on the other side of the Cold War, peaking in its emergence as the staging ground for the U.S. campaign  to defeat the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. It’s now again the frontline state in America’s war against Islamist militants in Afghanistan, but it is a far more conflicted partner than those days of war against the godless communists. So fraught and uncertain is the nature of the relationship with the United States that Pakistan has sought to deepen ties with long-time ally China, but also Russia, the other great power in a dangerously unstable neighbourhood.

Last year Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari made the first official visit to Russia by a Pakistani  head of state in 37 years after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s trip to Moscow. The visit capped a series of  exchanges including on the sidelines of a four-way summit that Russia has promoted involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, besides Moscow, to discuss regional security. Zardari and outgoing President Dmitri Medvedev have met six times in the past three years, according to a count by an Indian security affairs expert, and last month Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was in  Moscow negotiating an  agreement to guide futue ties including Russian investment  in the Pakistani economy.

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