Pakistan-Russia cooperation for regional peace
Any military confrontation between Iran and the United States will have devastating repercussions for the entire region. Therefore, all stakeholders have been struggling to de-escalate the volatile situation.
Pakistan opted for a proactive confidence-building approach to prevent the spiraling of tensions between Washington and Tehran. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, spoke with his regional counterparts as well as Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers to apprise them about the negativity of the conflict and to sort their help in defusing tensions in the region.
The Russians’ increasing role in Middle Eastern and Afghanistan affairs cannot be ignored by the great powers nor regional actors, including Pakistan. The country has been struggling to improve its security, economic, and diplomatic relations with Russia.
The convergence of interests and increasing cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad will have constructive implications for regional security stability. They have been assisting each other for restoring peace in Afghanistan and have agreed on the importance of coordinating with each other to help the Middle East situation.
Moscow’s support is vital in this regard. Russia has maintained cordial relations with Iran and keeps a military presence in Syria. This month, President Vladimir Putin’s surprise visits to Syria and Turkey accentuated Russia’s influence across the Middle East.
The Russians’ increasing role in Middle Eastern and Afghanistan affairs cannot be ignored by the great powers nor regional actors, including Pakistan.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
On Jan. 10, before embarking on his Middle East peace-mission, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and took him into confidence over the critical situation in the region. He shared with him Pakistan’s recent efforts to de-escalate tensions between Iran and the US. The Russians praised Pakistan’s timely constructive response to a grim Middle-Eastern situation.
Pakistan and Russia have similar challenges in the region. For instance, both sides have been exposed to radicalized Islamist militant syndicates with sanctuaries in Afghanistan. They understand that de-stabilization in the Middle East due to escalations of current tensions between Tehran and Washington, only intensify an anarchical situation in the region, which will play to the advantage of non-state actors such as Daesh and their South Asian and Central Asian allies. Daesh’s subsidiaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been endangering both nations’ security.
Russia and Pakistan have been struggling to defeat such organizations and end their sanctuaries in the neighborhood. The two countries also constituted a Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism to enhance bilateral cooperation in checking the nefarious activities of such organizations.
Both sides have been cooperating for restoring peace in Afghanistan and deliberating on the means and ways to combat transnational militant organizations with their sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
The Russians are alarmed, due to the increasing presence of Daesh in their neighborhood, and its contacts with Central Asian militant organizations. In April 2018, at the SCO forum, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that Russia had “supported the launch of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban movement while preventing Daesh from recruiting Taliban members.” Pakistan is also supporting peace talks between the Taliban and the US, and between Taliban and Russia to resolve the Afghanistan crisis.
After urging Iran’s leadership to observe restraint, FM Qureshi visited Riyadh to take the Saudi ruling elite into confidence and apprised them about the intentions of Pakistan. He then traveled to the US to talk to the Trump administration to de-escalate the crisis in the region.
Aside from meeting US officials and lawmakers, he also met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande. These confidence-building efforts from Pakistan, to reduce tensions between Iran and the US have already had a relaxing impact on regional stakeholders, including the Russians and the Chinese.
In summary, the cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad is vital for resolving the prevailing crisis in the Middle East, and ending decades’ long, protracted asymmetrical warfare in Afghanistan.
*Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University. E-mail: [email protected]