Pakistan, Russia to strengthen ties through defense and cybersecurity cooperation – OpEd – Eurasia Review
As an important step in strengthening bilateral relations, the public security councils of Russia and Pakistan delivered a series of addresses on 1st December 2021. After 2018, this was the first time that delegation-level talks had taken place between Pakistan and Russia. Dr Moeed Yusuf (National Security Advisor, Pakistan) and his Russian counterpart Mr Nikolai Patrushev had an in-depth discussion on transnational and indigenous issues and also reviewed the tune of Pakistan-Russia relations. The main agenda of the meeting was cooperation in the fields of defense, energy, anti-narcotics, anti-terrorism, economy, cybersecurity and security. information. Collaboration between special services, defense ministries and law enforcement agencies was also discussed.
During the meeting, the two sides paid special attention to the issue of drug trafficking and cybersecurity. The possibility of trade and fruitful cooperation between the two states was also discussed. A preliminary agreement was also signed between the two parties for the construction of a Pakistani 1,100 km long gas pipeline, known as the “flagship strategic enterprise”, which will further strengthen bilateral relations. The $ 2.5 billion project will supply 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminals in Gwadar and Karachi with those located in Lahore. By 2023, the project is expected to be completed. The current situation in Afghanistan was also an important point of discussion between Mr. Patrushev and Mr. Yusuf, both of whom agreed to support all efforts aimed at achieving lasting peace in South Asia. They also expressed concern about the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and stressed the need for the international community to intervene and take practical steps to stem the looming crisis. In addition, Pakistan has also focused on developing economic relations with Russia and the countries of Central Asia in order to improve economic integration and regional connectivity.
With the emergence of 5e Generation War or Hybrid War India is waging against Pakistan, Pakistan’s security concerns have also changed. India uses different tools of cyber warfare, disinformation and diplomatic isolation, financial and economic coercion, etc. in order to destabilize Pakistan. Former Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram wrote in 2018 about techniques used by Russia to counter Hybrid War. Russia used a combination of cyber attacks, narrative control, irregular forces, anonymous militias and diplomatic support, etc. This new form of warfare is also becoming more sophisticated with new emerging technologies. Therefore, Russia being the architect of the Hybrid War can prove to be a beneficial partner for Pakistan. Pakistan can acquire and learn new technologies such as cybersecurity tools and to better defend against hybrid attacks from India.
The two states also agreed to develop mutually beneficial relations in the military field at the meetings of the Joint Russia-Pakistan Military Advisory Committee (JMCC) held in September 2021. The military partnership between Moscow and Islamabad is governed by the cooperation agreement defense of 2014. Since the two states signed this agreement, the defense ties have grown steadily between the two. Different areas have been explored for joint cooperation, such as conducting joint military exercises, military training, defense industrial cooperation and intelligence cooperation. Both parties need immediate implementation and effective follow-up to decisions made at JMCC meetings. The development of such a constructive military relationship between Pakistan and Russia is an important factor in maintaining regional stability in the changing regional dynamics. The state can also work collectively to control the deteriorating political situation in Afghanistan through inclusive political dialogue and create conditions under which the conflicting parties can reach a constructive solution. It will also allow them to build an inclusive power structure through mutual agreement and end the prevailing civil war.
According to the statement of Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan) at a meeting in Islamabad in April 2021, Pakistan, there is a new approach and a new mindset regarding its relations with Russia. The two not only have geographical proximity, but Russia is also an important factor of stability at the regional level and also at the international level. They have worked collectively in the area of counterterrorism and to counter extremism. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov also pledged to provide Pakistan with special military equipment to fight terrorism. Therefore, relations between Russia and Pakistan have come a long way from the Cold War hostility to strategic cooperation at the present stage, and also the hope of continuing bilateral cooperation in various other fields in the future.
*The writer works as a research affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think tank based in Islamabad, Pakistan.