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Putin’s Pakistan Visit


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Why it was called off at the last moment; some thoughts and some facts.

By Raja G Mujtaba

A detailed discussion was held on PTV by S M Hali in his weekly program ‘Defence and Diplomacy.’ The video clippings of the same are placed below.

If Putin’s visit had taken place, this would have been a crown of my efforts since I was the one who started to talk about Russia-Pakistan relations a couple of years back. I missed no forum or opportunity where I did not raise this issue. I have always maintained that Pakistan needs to revisit its foreign policy and need to do so at the earliest.

In post 2014 scenario, Russian role in the region would gain more significance. The regional players like Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia that have contiguous borders with Afghanistan have more stakes than any other country. To make this role more permanent, it would also need Russian and Chinese participation to give it the desired stability.

In the same context, a quadrilateral summit was also planned in Islamabad. This would have been a historic meeting as many agreements would have been signed, some at bilateral level and some t quadrilateral. But the sudden putting of the visit raised many questions. Although, confusion surrounds in Moscow's hopes of establishing a stronger relations with Islamabad in advance of NATO's planned 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, after President Vladimir Putin abruptly canceled a visit to Islamabad planned for first week of October but strong signals have been sent out that Russia is committed to have stronger bilateral relations with Pakistan.

The summit on Afghanistan was postponed when in a letter to President Asif Zardari, President Putin expressed his inability to attend it. No reasons were given either by the Foreign Office or the Russian embassy in Islamabad for the cancellation of Mr. Putin’s much anticipated trip to Islamabad. There was also no statement from the Russian presidency or its foreign affairs ministry on the cancellation of the visit.

It was to be the first visit to Pakistan by any Soviet or Russian head of state, and a strong signal that something might be changing in the foreign-policy paradigms of a country that has openly regarded India as its major partner or the only partner in the region.

According to Christian Science Monitor, the Kremlin says Mr. Putin's trip to Pakistan was never officially confirmed and his working schedule this week is "too tight" to accommodate the two-day visit, which was to have included participation in a regular summit of regional leaders on Afghanistan and bilateral talks on trade, technical, and military cooperation with Pakistani President Asif Zardari. Taking advantage of these meetings, both countries had been quietly pushing their rapprochement for close to four years that is said to have covered a lot of ground. The endgame in Afghanistan was one of the major factors behind the developing Pak-Russia rapprochement that had been based on trade and security cooperation.

To do the damage control, Putin dispatched Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Islamabad on Wednesday. It was an immediate step though may have been in haste but it was an effort to explain the change to Pakistani leaders and keep the door open for future warming of ties. The visit of Sergei Lavrov sent the right signals in all directions.  Analysts opine that Russia wants very much to engage with Pakistan, that it sees as an important regional player that cannot be ignored in dealing with whatever emerges in Afghanistan following US and NATO withdrawal in just about two years from now. The Russians fear a repeat of the turbulent 1990s, when narco-trafficking exploded across Central Asian Republics (CAR) along with Islamist movements based in Afghanistan triggered major civil strife in CAR. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign-policy journal says, "It remains to be seen what will happen, of course, but most in Moscow tend to view it through the prism of how things went when the USSR pulled its forces out of Afghanistan in 1989. There followed a string of disasters which nobody would like to see repeated."

"Pakistan will be a key player, and it follows that Russia must have an open channel to Pakistan, at the very least to know how they will react and what they will do," he adds.

A Russian take on Afghanistan 

Not everyone agrees that the outlook for Afghanistan after 2014 is chaos. Gen. Makhmud Gareyev, president of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences and a former adviser to the pro-Soviet leader of Afghanistan, President Najibullah, following the withdrawal of Soviet forces, argues that things are quite different now.

"The fact is that the new post-Soviet Russian government established contacts with the rebels, and left Najibullah without ammunition," says Gareyev.

"I firmly believe that Afghanistan could have been normalized if not for that…. The Americans talk about leaving, but they aren't really going to go. They'll do what they did in Iraq, leave some forces and regroup them. They'll try to keep bases in Central Asia and reinforce their presence in Pakistan. The Americans will still be around," he says.

"This doesn’t mean things will be OK. The Taliban will continue killing, and drugs will still pour out of Afghanistan. There will be lots of problems," he adds.

Although the brief spell of Taliban in Afghanistan ensured a crime free society including opium trade and gun running. However the western media has been too harsh to them by painting them as evil.

Putin's visit would have been an opportunity to begin building bridges with Pakistan. He was to have attended the regular quadrilateral meeting on Afghanistan, comprising of leaders from Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Previous summits, held in various regional capitals, were always attended by Putin’s predecessor, former President Dmitry Medvedev, who has met with Mr. Zardari six times in the past three years – though never in Pakistan.

Uncertainty why Putin canceled

Russian experts say they are at a loss to explain why Putin ducked out of the meeting, a move that seems to have seriously set back Moscow's timetable and led to a wave of injured feelings and perplexed speculation in the Pakistani media.

"One possible explanation is that Putin is a very specific guy, who feels like he can write his own rules and do things his own way," says Sergei Strokan, foreign-affairs columnist for the Moscow daily Kommersant. He points out that Putin last May refused to attend a summit of the Group of Eight advanced countries, despite the fact that President Obama had specifically moved the meeting's venue to accommodate him. Putin never offered any more detailed explanation other than that he was "too busy."

"So far there is no clear statement from the Kremlin as to when, if ever, the visit will take place. It's hard to see what's going on here, but the fact that Lavrov has gone to Pakistan suggests that there is a strong feeling in Moscow that if we miss the chance to develop stronger relations with Pakistan now, we may pay for it with deep complications down the road," Mr. Strokan adds.

Pipeline politics?

Some experts suggest that pipeline politics may lie at the root of the mystery. Russia's powerful state-run natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, is seen as deeply involved in plans to export Iranian, Russian, and Central Asian gas to the lucrative markets of South Asia via two projects that are currently on the drawing boards. First, the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline, which analysts say Gazprom has a strong interest in, has apparently been stalled by Pakistan due to US objections. Second, the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which experts say Gazprom wants to build and own, may also be an unresolved issue between Moscow and Islamabad.

"There is a lot of talk behind the scenes about these pipelines, and it's obvious that interests are lining up. It may be a hidden explanation for the confused diplomacy we're seeing at the moment," says Strokan. "But everything will depend upon regional stability. You can't build pipelines through Afghanistan if there isn't reliable security there."

There is a consensus amongst the experts that time maybe running out to find some regional formula to handle the worst-case scenario for post-NATO Afghanistan that Moscow seems to believe in.

"From the moment NATO troops are partially withdrawn from Afghanistan, Russia wants that country to be controllable," says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute of Strategic Assessments in Moscow.

"The fear in Moscow is that radical Islamism will spread, drug trafficking will explode, and Russia will be left to pick up the pieces. We know there's no hope for stability there without Pakistan's active participation, and we need to be talking seriously with them," he adds.

According to the Foreign Office, the Summit (Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan & Afghanistan) planned in Islamabad from 2-3 Oct is being rescheduled,  now new dates would be announced.

While the Russian foreign minister was visiting Islamabad, General Ashfaq Kayani was in Moscow. During the same period, the Russian defence minister was to visit India, a visit he put off due to Kayani's presence in Moscow. The details of the visit are not yet known but certinly it did have to build some strong ties in defence cooperation.

Accords likely to have been signed during visit

According to an earlier Foreign Office statement, the inter-governmental commission (IGC) on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation had approved in a meeting on Sept 10 the text of memorandums of understanding that may have been signed during Putin’s trip.

Moscow has shown special interest in energy projects, including Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Russia, it is learnt, had agreed to invest $500 million in the CASA-1000 (Central Asia-South Asia) electricity transmission project, besides helping Pakistan in upgradation of Pakistan Steels Mills. Russian energy giant, the state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom, has been interested in laying the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

The visit could not have been put off under American or Indian pressure because Putin would take none. He is quite independent in his decisions; when he can avoid G-8 meeting and not meeting Obama there he would not care for any pressures. Putin is a dynamic and a charismatic personality who is taken as the father of modern Russia. However Pakistan would be well advised not to put any conditions on Russia as for her relations with India. Chess players know when to give a check.

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  1. Abbass (Steve) says:

    You are 100% correct about not poking at Putin. He is the most singular and truly powerful world leader in every sense at this time. Whatever game Russia is playing, they are chess players dealing with a USA which cannot even remember how to play checkers anymore.  The answer to Putin's cancellation would doubtless come down to some aspect of the interraction between the primary disruptive force of the USA and the Russian bear. I'm thinking pipeline issues most likely. I can't see the USA letting go of that one, it is one of the main reasons (besides just breaking things which then need to be replaced for big $$$) for the US presence in the area. Access to the energy of the area and blocking Russia, Iran and China from accessing the energy of the Caspian effectively themselves. Allowing either pipeline project to proceed is an admission that they really lost in Afghanistan. Actually they long since have lost their objectives in this respect, they just don't have an easy time admitting it.
    The other reason they're in Afghanistan is the Opium. Russia would not be worried about any explosion of the Opium trade in a post NATO Afghanistan, the explosion already happened and has been ongoing since the first growing season after the US led invasion.which displaced the Taliban.  I visit Pakistan and have friends who live/work in Afghanistan and the word is simply that NATO the puppet government and various warlords and what there is of the so called "Taliban" all co-operate to divvy up the opium trade between themselves. There are representantatives of all groups meeting often in Kabul anyway.
    It comes down to a decision time for Pakistan. I think if there were such an entity and it could speak for itself, then the answer would be a resounding yes to co-operation with Russia and more too with China and out with the USA together with its CIA terrorists, MOSSAD and RAW scumbags in tow and all. Better to have the Chinese and Russians all over you and at least sharing some scraps of life with you rather than the wholesale rape and abuse you get for nothing except money to pay for corruption at the top from such as the USA and Britain.  I think the corrupt Pakistani "Government" sic, in Islamabad (with their ill goten wealth stashed in Dubai, New York and London). are the problem here. Struggling to remove their swollen lips from the teat of Western bribes they cannot bring themselves to do anything for Pakistan or its long suffering people which might lesten the flow.  Thus they refuse Chinese offers of help with the el grid, because their abusive US masters say no and they will refuse to take the steps necessary with Rusia even though it is the only course in Pakistan's favour, for the same reason.
    As always the problems in Pakistan come down to the same problem…corruption at the top.   That's always a problem, because the way I see corruption is this. It begins somewhere, anywhere and by its avaricious nature and single minded pursuit of its own increase, it rises within the ranks, until it captures the crown of any enterprise, typically police forces or governments or company boards. Once there it purges itself of all but the necessary windown dressing of non-corruption and corruption  as such becomes the order of the enterprise. <akes it hard to beat by anything but a powerful external force. Something along the lines of say a popular revolution.

  2. What is this “endgame in Afghanistan” BS?
    It is bloody butchering Caucasians fleeing. At least let us use the terminology that is correct.
    “….1990s, when narco-trafficking exploded across Central Asian Republics (CAR)” really? Pray tell how the disgusting Caucasian barbarians have funded their infernal wars  and why are drugs so easily available & diffused in UK, ITALY, EU +US? The Libya rats + Syrian goons are supplied drugs log on LIBYA AGAINST SUPER POWER MEDIA site and they have some info regarding India + drugs. The last time I looked at info – India was top generic drug supplier
    Surely Putin has all the data + information from his “great friend”. After all it is his great “bunga bunga dwarf” friend’s country!
    Fresh off the press (so to say)
    an observer · 1 day ago
    what are "Islamists"? You mean MUSLIMS my kind sir. Until you can get basic common WORDS right, well…
    2 replies · active 10 hours ago

    another observer · 10 hours ago
    Good, and overdue remark, dear Observer.

    I always tend to laugh when I imagine the idiots who invented this term "Islamist", pretending to look more sophisticated.
    It's the equivalent to "Christianist" and "Judaist" which they never use instead of the simple "Christian" and "Jew".

    I believe that the Western media, started for no apparent reason around the nineteen seventies to have difficulty to pronounce and to recognize the simple-as-a-breeze Words; "Islam" and "Muslim" trying to instill in the minds of its readers that Islam is something among the herd or communism, fascism, etc. Just as if Islam is a similar to those temporary historical philosophies or colour revolutions.
    It's became not only a common linguistic error among the western writers, but started to appear in Arabic media (literally translated) as "Islami" instead of "Muslim" without a single excuse for the apparent ignorance of their own language.

    Take it from the funny side. After all, Muslims know well that they are Muslims, not Islamists.
    You have not mentioned in your article the word OIL. which is the main reason for the crisis in Mali. North of Mali where "al qaeda" is, has huge oil reserves. Remember: al qaeda appears only where oil, pipelines, energy routes are.

    1 reply · active 15 hours ago
    Carl Street · 15 hours ago
    Quite right — IF I was a geologist I would be worried about becoming unemployed.

    No need for geology, ground penetrating radar, sonic exploration — today, the best way to find oil is to locate an "al-Qaida" unit — oil is almost certainly right underneath their headquarters.

    Finally, a low-tech oil location solution anyone can use…
    injured feelings and” – I would have liked Putin visit but have to agree with the actions of the Russian Leader. Pakistan has IDIOTS incharge and it is stupid to waste time but soon there will be election – keep the door open. What do they say “there are no enemies (pls do not include the FUKUSA Zionist Mafiosi gangs here) but only interests …..” That is what Russia is doing”
    Read courtesy of ex Indian ambassador  Gajendra Singh (thanx sahib)
    William Endahl article adds the energy rivalry facet to the East West struggle in greater middle east .Cheers Gajendra

    Syria, Turkey, Israel and a Greater Middle East Energy War
    By F. William Engdahl *                                                   10 October 2012
    Note ; For map see,
    On October 3, 2012 the Turkish military launched repeated mortar shellings inside Syrian territory. The military action, which was used by the Turkish military, conveniently, to establish a ten-kilometer wide no-man’s land “buffer zone” inside Syria, was in response to the alleged killing by Syrian armed forces of several Turkish civilians along the border. There is widespread speculation that the one Syrian mortar that killed five Turkish civilians well might have been fired by Turkish-backed opposition forces intent on giving Turkey a pretext to move militarily, in military intelligence jargon, a ‘false flag’ operation.[i]

  3. Khalid Iqbal says:

    Very pertinent analysis.
    However, Pakistan needs to proceed with a lot of caution with a state whose President can call off a summit without bothering to giver a solid reason.

  4. Muazzam Khalil says:

    Its always good to have friendly relations with neighbours. If we are improving ties with India, why not Russia? 


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