As per media reports, Prime Minister Imran Khan will leave for Moscow on an official visit during the current weak. The same media also reported that COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa was scheduled to visit Washington during the same dates. However, his visit has been cancelled because of non-availability of US defense and military officials, as they were pre-occupied with the crisis over Ukraine. US intelligence and media in unison are predicting a Russian invasion of Ukraine at any moment. So Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow will be taking place at a crucial moment in international politics when the Western world led by Washington is out to make the Russian Federation a pariah state on account of its posture on Ukraine—a country with close cooperative arrangements with NATO and EU. How will Pakistan’s move to send its Prime Minister to Moscow, in such a situation, be perceived by Western capitals?
Pakistan is a new customer of military hardware produced by Russia’s military-industrial complex, with a frequency of orders making it one of the top receivers of weapons from Moscow. At the regional political level, Moscow and Islamabad have recently shown similarly inclinations on Afghan situation and the Taliban rise to power in Kabul. There seems to be a convergence of opinion as to what role the Taliban should play in future security architecture of the region. Militarily the land forces of two countries are engaging in joint military exercises at several levels.
So, is Pakistan about to make re-adjustments in its foreign policy away from the Western countries? This would be the question that many in Western capitals will be attempting to answer when they will see the images of Russian President Putin greeting Prime Minister Imran Khan at his presidential palace. For his part, General Bajwa wanted his visit to Washington to coincide with the Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow—in order to convince US defense officials that the PM’s visit is not intended to send signals of an intention to break up with the West or to support Russian involvement in Ukraine. Pakistan never wanted its newly developing relations with its new military supplier to cast a dark shadow on its relations with the West. But reportedly, the Pakistani side has been told by officials in Washington not to come to the American capital for this kind of diplomacy. A news item in Pakistani newspaper reported that the US State Department conveyed to the Pakistani embassy in Washington that US defense officials are too busy because of the Ukrainian crisis and would not be able to spare time for a meeting.
As the frequency of repeated tense moments between the Western capitals on the one hand and Russia and China on the other are dramatically increasing, weak and relevant countries like Pakistan are feeling it increasingly difficult to do a balancing act in such situations. China is our time-tested ally. We are developing new political and military relations with Russian Federation. And yet we cannot afford to annoy Western capitals, especially Washington. The popular excitement about Moscow or Beijing replacing the Western world as our new mentors has no place in practical diplomacy. Despite the capacity of Moscow and Beijing to meet Pakistan’s military and immediate political demands, the financial resources of the world are still being controlled from Washington and other Western capitals. We are still living in the world which is dominated by the West at the political, economic and financial levels.
China is our time-tested ally. We are developing new political and military relations with Russian Federation. And yet we cannot afford to annoy Western capitals, especially Washington. The popular excitement about Moscow or Beijing replacing the Western world as our new mentors has no place in practical diplomacy
Pakistan’s ruling elite is too Westernized in cultural and political terms to break with the West just like that. Our political and ruling elite espouse Western political values, our fashion comes from the West and elite groups send their kids to Western universities. We like Western pop music and Hollywood movies and idealise Western aspirations and political objectives like political freedom and civil liberties. All this, however, will not keep us immune from feeling the pressure of the advent of a new Cold War in international politics.
The Quad, officially the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is a group of four countries: the United States, Australia, India and Japan. Today these countries work on a broader agenda, which includes tackling security, economic, and health issues. Indian strategic experts are describing QUAD as a security alliance. On the other hand Russia and China are coming closer on Ukrainian question. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, called for talks to resolve the crisis in Europe: he said Ukraine’s sovereignty should be “respected and safeguarded” — but also sided with Russia in saying that NATO enlargement was destabilising the continent. Iran is an interested party which sees the prospects of a powerful anti-Western block emerging in the region that can back it in its rivalry with Washington. And not surprisingly, news reports in Pakistani newspapers quoted unnamed officials as saying that Washington was annoyed over the visit of the Iranian interior minister to Islamabad where he was greeted by all the power-wielders and this led to cancellation of General Bajwa’s Washington visit. The new Cold War will bring with it a situation for Pakistan where it will see squeezing of its options at the regional and international stage.
Pakistan’s quest for security started when the world was warming up for the first Cold War in 1947. We were faced with a larger military threat on our Eastern border. However, otherwise the region was calm. We still face the larger military threat and the region is not at all calm. Our society and state are witnessing the worst form of intra-elite conflict. We have failed to diversify our social, political and economic resources—our reliance and mental dependence on tanks, fighter jets and bombs have increased. And correspondingly, our economy is in shambles. And we seem to be in a headlong rush to secure our military-oriented foreign policy interests.
Cold War or no Cold War, we have failed to come out of the tangled shackles of security and military realities which appear more a product of our own acts and thinking than anything else.