Pakistan Is Russia’s Newfound Friend

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GANAPATHI BHAT, AKOLA

WHEN Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited both New Delhi and Islamabad in his whirlwind tour, the visible, and palpable, warmth between two nations seen in Islamabad was conspicuous by its absence in Delhi. Not mere photo ops, Russia’s assurance to Pakistan on supply of highly sophisticated military equipment to that country and promise to conduct joint military exercise there do not bode well for India’s interests. Well, it is not as if all of a sudden Moscow has found a new strategic and military partner in Islamabad. For years, after a considerable period of strong dislike, Russia has built bridges with Pakistan its own way. Foreign policy is a matter of costs and benefits; no two nations are permanent foes. New Delhi, of course, is not on a slippery slope as far as its military and trade ties with Moscow are concerned. An old, and traditional, connection cannot go haywire just like that.  The differences of opinion between the two ‘ friends’ were more than evident during Lavlov’s meeting with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar. Both sides struck a discordant note on Pacific Ocean, on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and on the role of Taliban in Afghanistan. India’s stated stand on all the three has been unambiguous. Friends have the right to quarrel but if that translates into a fight then the repercussions are bound to vitiate the atmosphere in the region. As a matter of protocol, a visiting Foreign Minister may or may not call on the Prime Minister of the host country. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to rise above formalities. Therefore, tongues wagged when Lavlov left for Islamabad without meeting Modi.  In contrast, Pakistan Premier Imran Khan is said to have had ‘cordial’ talks with the Russian Foreign Minister.  Be that as it may, India has to engage Russia on a personal level keeping with its de-hyphenation policy on international relations. Modi’s proactive foreign policy and his frequent engagements with President Vladimir Putin at international forums should help redefine the strained relationship between the two countries.