Pakistan Chief of Army Staff
General QamarJavedBajwa recently paid a what the observers regard “highly
successful” two-day official visit of Russia. In Moscow he met with the Chief of
General Staff Russian Armed Forces General Valery VasilevichGerasimov at the
defence ministry, and with the Commander of Russian Federation Ground Forces,
Colonel General Oleg Salyukov at the the Kremlin Palance. Both sides discussed
regional security, stability and bilateral security cooperation. Both sides
vowed to “keep on working towards a cooperative regional framework based on
sovereign equality and mutual progress through connectivity.”
GenBajwa’s visit was given wide coverage across Russian media. His counterparts
– Gen Grasimov and Gen Oleg Salyukov – minced no words in hurling praises on him
while appreciating Pakistan’s achievements in the ongoing war against terror.
“Russia supports Pakistan’s efforts towards reconciliation and peace in
Afghanistan and is willing to play a role towards that end.” General Grasimov
said his country supports Pakistan’s efforts towards reconciliation and peace in
During the warmly received Russia visit, the Pakistan army chief stressed on
three focal points: one, he made it clear that “Pakistan does not have hostile
designs towards any country without naming India or Afghanistan”, adding “ we
will keep on working towards a cooperative regional framework based on sovereign
equality and mutual progress through connectivity; two, he said, “Pakistan
welcomes any initiative which can bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and
the whole region will benefit from it”; three, towing the official policy of the
Government of Pakistan, Gen Bajwa said, “Pakistan wants to get out of the
zero-sum dynamics of Cold War era that is still prevalent in South Asia.”
The visit was held at a time when Russia has announced to host the eight-member
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries armies’ joint
anti-terror war exercises to be held later this month. Interestingly, India is
also the China-Russia-led SCO member country, and New Delhi has confirmed its
participation in the ‘extremely important’ event being taken place in the
region. This is in the backdrop of reports of ISIS and other international
terror groups active in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban who announced to
launch the spring offensive. A number of terror incidents in parts of
Afghanistan claimed lives of tens of civilian and security personnel as well as
journalists including BBC correspondent.
The upcoming war drills under the SCO banner are likely to establish Pakistan’s
leading role in the war against terror, and the participating member countries
would benefit from the experience gained by the battle-hardened Pakistan
military. This will not only bring Pakistan to limelight, but also help
Islamabad to diplomatically and politically presenting its point of view before
the world, stressing upon the need to recognize in befitting manner Pakistan’s
selfless efforts towards making the world safe from 9/11, 2001 incidents.
General Bajwa’s three focal points primarily attempt to address Pakistan’s
desire for peace in the region as well as within Pakistan where the country
needs economic development and strengthening of bilateral and multi-lateral
trade with the regional countries through China Pakistan Economic Corridor. This
is heartening to know that Pakistan, during the last 10 or so years of WOT, has
spent Rs. 297.3 billion on its fight against terrorism, which could have been
spent otherwise for the uplift of the masses. Despite Pakistan’s frontline
proactive role, physical engagement and heavy casualties as well as damages in
the WOT, Islamabad’s relationship with Washington continues to deteriorate,
probably under a well weighed design.
Americans since Mr Trump came to the White House have repeatedly accused
Pakistan of not doing enough. It means, while Washington appears to have
downplayed Pakistan’s critical role, Russia thinks otherwise. Gen Bajwa thanked
General Oleg and said that “Pakistan reciprocates the desire of enhanced
bilateral military engagements”, adding, Russia had recently played a positive
role to help resolve complex situations in the region and Pakistan will continue
to play its part in keeping conflicts away from the region and “seek approaches
which bring regional convergences into play rather than the divergences”.
America’s toughened policy towards Pakistan has forced Islamabad to look to
other regional countries like China and Russia. But relations between Pakistan
and Russia have seen an unprecedented improvement during last few years.
Pakistan’s political and military leaderships have lately been engaged in
extending ties with Russia; President Zardari started paying visits to Moscow
and brief Russian leadership on Pakistan’s point of view as well as its active
role in the war against terrorism. Recently, in February, Pakistan’s foreign
minister (now ex) Khwaja Asif visited Moscow to garner Russia’s support after
President Trump pressurized Pakistan to do more. More recently National Security
Adviser Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua also travelled to Russia; the flurry of
visits suggests a new push by Pakistan to diversify its foreign policy options
after the US expanded its cooperation and strategic ties with India.
While India, Russia’s long-standing strategic partner, has joined the US camp,
Moscow is also opening up its options that include reaching out to countries
such as Islamabad.Pakistan has been pushing for a regional consensus on
Afghanistan. Russia, China and Iran have endorsed Pakistan’s stance that the use
of force will not resolve the lingering conflict in Afghanistan. All the
regional players believe that the only way out to achieve elusive peace in the
war-ravaged country can come through Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Former army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif had also visited Moscow in 2015. The visit
resulted in the first ever mutual military venture between Pakistan and Russia.
Consequently, the first military exercise, Druzhba-216 (Friendship-2016), was
held between Pakistan and Russia in 2016. This military drill lasted for two
weeks, at a time when Pakistan-India tensions were particularly high. Believably
that military drill not only strengthened Pakistan-Russia military ties but also
provided a conducive environment for trust building.
Before Gen Raheel’s visit, former army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani also
visited Russia. As a result of that visit, Russia and Pakistan signed a landmark
defense agreement and Russia lifted an embargo on weapons exports to Pakistan.
Such initiatives by Pakistan cemented relations between the two countries, and
may make Russia and Pakistan major regional allies in the future.
Russia is concerned about the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan, which may have
major consequences for Central Asia and Russian territories with Muslim
populations. Pakistan’s military has got enough experience in countering
terrorism, and this can be helpful for Russia as well to benefit from the
expertise and experience of Pakistan.