ISLAMABAD - The cold war is long over now and Pakistan and Russia are moving closer to each other in various fields including diplomatic, defence and trade.

For most of the cold war, the Soviet Union’s relations with Pakistan had seen ups and downs. Most of the 50s, 60s and 70s were spent in the cold war when India was close to the Soviet Union and Pakistan was close to the United States. Now things have changed. India is also friendly with the United States and Pakistan is also friendly with the US. So Pakistan no longer has the cold war situation.

The worst period in their relationship started soon after the cold war became more intense in South Asia and Afghanistan became a battleground for proxy wars between the then Soviet Union and the US. However, since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the changing dynamics in the region, Pakistan and Russia have been trying to open a new chapter in their bilateral relations. In the recent past, both the countries have re-evaluated their bilateral relations in the light of the changing geopolitical realities.

As no longer the situation of cold war exists, Pakistan first hoped that tension with India will decrease and that the country will not have to buy arms as the Pakistani government wants to spend money on human development. But Pakistan is looking for arms from Russia and the military is already in touch with the Russian military.

In a recent interview to Russian news agency Sputnik, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his government had been mulling to purchase arms from Moscow, given the fact that the cold war was long over. Asked about military cooperation between Pakistan and Russia and joint drills, he hoped to deepen their contacts.

Islamabad and Moscow have taken multiple steps to strengthen the bilateral relations lately. They have recently enhanced their military cooperation and business ties. Defense is the main field of Pak-Russia ties. The two sides have agreed to multiply the cooperation. Russia is willing to take the relationship to a new level and forget the bitter past dating back to the cold war era. Both the sides have left the past behind and are moving forward.

PM Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin had met on June 14 this year in Bishkek on the sidelines of 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a political, economic, and security alliance established in 2001. The meeting is now being considered a major diplomatic success for Pakistan. PM Khan during the meeting also extended an invitation to the Russian President to visit Pakistan. TV footage showed Prime Minister Imran standing next to the Russian President. Both the leaders were seen exchanging smiles and engaging in brief conversation while posing for cameras. Later, when they sat for lunch, the photos showed both the leaders having a lively discussion.

As Imran Khan visited Bishkek to attend the summit, reports surfaced that he was likely to discuss an arms deal with President Putin during their meeting. Pakistan has shown interest to sign a deal to purchase military hardware worth billions of dollars from Russia. According to reports, the deal is expected to amount 9 billion dollars under which Islamabad would purchase heavy and medium fighter jets, medium and short-range air defense systems, tanks, combat helicopters, and warships. For years, China has remained the major arms supplier to Pakistan, especially after the latter decided to reduce its reliance on the US.

On the heels of the recent tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan is set to purchase the Pantsir surface-to-air missile system and T-90 tanks from Russia. If true, this deal would be Russia’s biggest ever deal in its arms trade with Pakistan and would have the potential to shift the balance of Moscow’s relations with the two South Asian neighbours and also the rivals. The Soviet Union, and later the Russian Federation, kept a strict policy of not selling weapons to Pakistan, while remaining India’s close political partner and selling a lot of military hardware to New Delhi. This, however, changed beginning in 2014, when Moscow and Islamabad signed an agreement to cooperate in the area of defense. Navies of the two countries also recently participated in joint anti-drug exercises in the Arabian Sea and a Pakistani warship participated in the major Russian Navy Day parade recently.

A recent S-400 purchase deal inked between India and Russia has not only prompted an arms race but also created the question of balance of power in the region. But Pakistan’s missile technology is a perfect antidote for India’s S-400 purchase. It’s not a surprise that Pakistan’s indigenous cruise missiles have the capability to beat the layered defence shield of S-400 and hit its target with pinpoint accuracy.

Moscow and the Afghan peace are now a reality. Recently, Pakistan and Russia had vowed to work together for peace in Afghanistan and supported each other’s regional initiatives. During a meeting recent between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Russian envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, the two countries agreed to continue regular consultations on the Afghan peace process and support regional initiatives.

In December, Pakistan had launched a campaign to win over the key neighbours on the Afghanistan issue and regional peace. Last November, Russia had hosted talks on peace and Afghanistan Taliban which among Afghan leaders were also participated China, Iran and Pakistan. There were no significant breakthroughs during the Moscow meeting, which was attended by representatives of 11 countries but delegates widely acknowledged that the meeting itself was a feat.

Apart from defence, Pakistan wants to also improve trade in other areas with Russia. Russia is an energy-surplus country. Pakistan has shortages in energy, so the country hopes to talk on those areas as well. Pakistan is already pursuing the field.

Army General Oleg Salyukov, Commander in Chief Russian ground forces called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at GHQ in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. During the meeting, matters related to enhanced security / training cooperation and measures to further expand joint military ties between the two armies were discussed. The COAS said that cooperation between both the countries will not only help in improving peace and stability in the region but also usher economic prosperity. The visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan Army’s professionalism and achievements in war against terrorism. He said that the world should appreciate more what Pakistan has achieved.

Pakistan-Russia relations refer to the bilateral, between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Russian Federation. The Soviet Union and Pakistan first established the diplomatic and bilateral relations on 1 May 1948. On May 1, 2018, Pakistan celebrated the 70th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations with Russia.