The growing proximity between Pakistan and Russia, India’s traditional ally, has raised concerns in New Delhi. However, Russia says India should not be worried and emphasizes that Moscow’s ties with the two Asian neighbors are “independent” of each other.
“Russia is very cautious when it comes to respecting the sensitivities. But at the same time, we regard our relationship with Pakistan as independent in nature and we also have bilateral trade and economic agenda.
We are quite committed to developing this relationship further including from the point of view of Pakistan being a partner country in the framework of the SCO,” deputy Russian ambassador to India Roman Babushkin said.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, comprises eight countries, including India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Russia wants to have its cake & eat it too. It criticises Quad & argues 4 sale of S-400 2 India. Russia must recognise Chinese threat to India rather than blindly supporting China. Its growing ties with Pak-China will strain relations with India.@gauravcsawant @AnchorAnandN #quad
— ashok sajjanhar (@asajjanhar) December 22, 2020
Russia and Pakistan have committed to building a 1,100-km pipeline starting in July. The pipeline will help Pakistan connect to more natural gas terminals.
Islamabad will have a majority share of 51% to 74% in the project, while Russia will own the rest, Nadeem Babar, Pakistan’s petroleum adviser to the prime minister told Bloomberg in an interview.
During the media briefing in New Delhi on Monday, Babushkin highlighted that “Russia is very cautious when it comes to respecting the sensitivities” and at the same time termed its relationship with Pakistan as “independent”. “We also have bilateral trade and economic agenda [with Pakistan]”
“This is the very important principle we are following when it comes to cooperation with every country in the world including Pakistan and many others,” he said.
Last month, Pakistan and Russia held their fifth joint military exercise called ‘Friendship-2020’ at the Tarbela special operations training ground in Pakistan. Media reports claimed that over 150 personnel from each side participated in the drill. The annual exercise is being organized since 2016.
Russian Ambassador to India asserting Russia's ties with India are INDEPENDENT of Russia's ties with China & Pakistan is strategically wrong . Russia cannot be oblivious that China & Pakistan are Sworn Enemies of India and China-Pakistan Axis potent. @DrSJaishankar Tell Russia
— dr subhash kapila (@drsubhashkapila) December 21, 2020
At the time of the exercise, Pakistan combat training department head Major-General Nayer Nasser stated that the two countries are united in the fight against terrorism and the exercise allows them to “strengthen relations between the military personnel”.
Babushkin on Monday reiterated the purpose of the exercise as “part of the counter-terror framework” and said that such collaborations including experience sharing and capacity building is natural for all the SCO member states.
In view of India’s border tensions with China, Pakistan’s “iron brother”, the growing proximity between Islamabad and Moscow is seen as a sign of worry by analysts. However, Nivedita Kapoor, a fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) wrote that the Indo-Russia relationship far surpasses the newer relationship with Pakistan but concerns in New Delhi remain.
“Russia is aware of the growing asymmetry of its ties with China and the weakness of its position in the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific. In this situation, if India senses any formation of Russia-China-Pakistan axis, it would be deeply detrimental to Moscow’s interests,” she explained in her paper titled ‘Russia-Pakistan relations and its impact on India’.
She added that not only is India a time-tested strategic partner of Russia, it is also a significantly larger market than Pakistan, the relationship with whom forms a critical part of the multi-vector policy (for promoting trade and commerce) Moscow aims to follow.
Experts talking to the EurAsian Times stated that as India is diversifying its dealings with the West and technically Russia also has full rights to diversify its relations with Pakistan and other nations. At the same time, Pakistan is not a very big market for Russia but there are two reasons why Russia is keen on Pakistan.
First, Russia wants to send a discreet message to India that if New Delhi can move away from Russia then Moscow can do as well and they are doing where it pinches the most – Pakistan.
Secondly, Pakistan and Russia have a common friend – China. China would ideally want Russia to invest in China’s BRI and CPEC projects. This would, according to Islamabad, limit Indian objections and interferences in the region as Pakistan has consistently blamed India for sabotaging the CPEC project.