Speaking to Channel News Asia (CAN) on December 9, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, said that his country was neutral in the war between Russia and Ukraine. He added that Pakistan was tired of getting involved in disputes and clashes and would like to remain at a distance.
Incidentally, when asked whether his country would budge under international pressure, he evaded a direct answer, saying although his country sympathized with Ukraine yet, Pakistan was facing numerous problems at home and would not want to add to the burden.
The minister was referring to Pakistan’s long involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the aftermath of the US withdrawal. He said that the international community had forgotten Afghanistan and its refugees when the war in Ukraine broke out.
Is Pakistan Really Neutral?
Is it true that Pakistan plays neutral in the ongoing Ukraine war? No, not at all. Pakistan has chosen its old policy of hunting with the hound and running with the hare. Pakistan-Ukraine relations have a past that runs into the present.
In October, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting Russia’s referendum based on which it occupied four regions of southern Ukraine. We learn that 143 member countries voted in favor of the resolution, and 35 countries, including Pakistan, abstained.
Pakistan’s abstention meant giving an impression to Russia that Islamabad sides with Moscow. How Moscow will take it remains to be seen. But at least we have noted that Moscow refused to provide Russian oil to PM Shahbaz Sharif, who had been on a short visit to Moscow.
The Russian cryptic remark on the theme was that Pakistan’s prime minister had come with a “made in Washington formula.”
In a column, The EurAsian Times of November 1 wrote that Igor Morozov, a member of the Defense Committee of the Russian Federation, said that a delegation of Ukrainian experts visited Pakistan to interact with a local team and discuss matters related to nuclear technology.
RIA Novosti, the Russian official organ, broadcast this news. Novosti said that the news originated from the conference deliberations on the topic ” Nuclear Provocation in Ukraine: Who needs it?” The conference was part of a program called Ukraine Dossier.
The Russian lawmaker, Igor Morozov, said that nobody doubted Ukraine’s capability of manufacturing the “dirty bomb,” but the problem was the shortage of funds.
“However, the danger is there, and Ukraine can make the bomb,” he emphatically added. He even spoke of the simple technology of connecting the TochU to a low-powerful nuclear charge, which can release the radiation of the “Dirty Bomb.” He said that the President of the US has the power to order the use of low-yield atomic bombs anywhere without Congress’s prior permission.
Morozov said that he does not rule out the possibility of Ukrainian President Zelensky reflecting on the subject during his meetings with the British and American leaders.
Pakistan Supplying Arms To Ukraine
Although Russian official circles did not endorse the sensational statement of the Senator, many among them are aware that Pakistan has been supplying arms and ammunition to Ukraine since its war with Russia started.
Sources say that a Pakistani company called DMI Associates, dealing in the arms trade, stands connected to a company called M/S Defense Industry Group of Bulgaria which supplies defense items to Ukraine.
It reported that a Ukrainian company named FORMG, incepted in Kyiv, has established a connection with a Pakistani company M/S Blue Lines Cargo Pvt. Ltd so that supplying arms, ammunition, and other military equipment to Ukraine is facilitated.
Many conflicting stories are making rounds in Moscow’s political circles. Amidst all this din, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, called his European counterparts to tell them that he had information about Ukraine, talking about using the dirty bomb. They dismissed his warning.
Riafan, a Russian web portal, reported that British heavy carriers had been seen recently making several flights a day from the Noor Khan airport near Rawalpindi to Bulgaria.
A Ukrainian website said that Ukrainian artillery was using 122mm projectiles against the Russians, and these projectiles were procured from a Pakistan-based ordnance factory in Punjab.
This fund of information reveals that Pakistan is trying to derive monetary benefits from the Ukrainian war besides usual political backing. Pakistan has signed a contract with Ukraine to improve and upgrade its battle tank T-80UD.
For this purpose, the government-sanctioned USD 85.6 million in favor of a Ukrainian company name UkrObornProm. At the beginning of the current year, the two sides had talked about purchasing 6TD1 and 6TD2 engines.
The talks between the two sides usually go around the sale and purchase of war materials. Ukraine is satisfied that it has found a dependable partner.
Growing Pakistan-Ukraine Partnership
Last year Pakistan’s COAS General Bajwa visited Ukraine. He was looking for sophisticated weaponry. He visited Kharkiv, where during an inspection of a military testing field, he had expressed a desire that Pakistan and Ukraine establish defense cooperation and collaboration based on a transfer of technology and joint planning so that they benefit from one another’s experience. He had all praise for the smartness of Ukrainian troops.
The entire narrative shows deep interaction between Pakistan and Ukraine, which belies foreign minister Bilawal’s claim that Pakistan is neutral in the ongoing Eurasian war. The fact is that Pakistan is involved in both sides, not one.
Pakistan is repeating the old policy of President Bush’s days, viz. keeping Russia happy that it does not become a party to the General Assembly resolution and, at the same time, keeping the bread and butter happy by supplying arms and ammunition to Ukraine to strengthen the American stand. This is how Pakistan tries to be close to both sides or, in crude words, to make a fool of both sides.
The great historian Ibn Khaldun had said that as long as there are fools in the world, a wise man need not worry for his bread and butter.
- Padma Shri KN Pandita is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views expressed here are of the author’s.
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