Things are looking up for the beleaguered Pakistani establishment. In May, Russia joined China in extending political support to Pakistan at a time when the country appears to have been completely isolated by the West. President Vladimir Putin has made all the right gestures. He supported Islamabad when the latter took the decision to block the Nato supply routes into Afghanistan. He snubbed President Barack Obama by deciding not to attend the G-8 summit. And he is not going to attend the inaugural ceremony of the 2013 Olympic Games in Britain. The leader of this huge monolith that stretches across nine time zones has become Pakistan’s latest friend and is now focusing his attention on Asia. Pakistan’s disenchantment with the US has been steadily worsening. It has now reached the point where even sensible middle class western-oriented Pakistanis are becoming disillusioned with the former ally. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s belligerence and acerbic remarks have made things worse.
Russia’s relations with the US have deteriorated ever since Putin began his third term as president. The two countries have locked horns over the future of the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s nuclear ambitions and missile defence. Putin has also accused foreign powers of trying to destabilise Russia by financing the biggest anti-government protests in a decade. But heck, this is nothing new. It has been going on since 1945. Ivan has always been the bad boy.
As I had pointed out in an earlier article in The Express Tribune, the first Pakistani official, who offered an olive branch to the Soviet Union was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Until 1990, Pakistan had a particularly close relationship with the US. Subsequently, the country was faced by a peculiar foreign relations situation. The visible tilt of the US towards Pakistan’s eastern neighbour with an eye on India’s huge market accentuated Pakistan’s growing dilemma. The signing of a defence pact between the US and India, stretching across 10 years made Islamabad look at different foreign policy options. And so, what was once quite unthinkable — stretching a hand of friendship to the Russian bear — suddenly seemed a viable option.
There was, of course, the dreadful episode of the Afghan war, which spawned a series of movies featuring Sylvester Stallone. Now, I don’t want to take anything away from those fierce warriors known as the Mujahideen. They were totally focused. They fought bravely and showed exemplary courage. But I wonder how many of my countrymen at the time of the heady victory, mulled over the fact that these warriors were also destroying roads, hospitals, sanatoria, community centres and schools that provided education to Afghan girls and women, or the fact that the war was becoming increasingly unpopular in the Soviet Union. I honestly believe that the Soviet forces didn’t have their heart in the battle and treated it as an unmitigated nuisance. God only knows what would have happened if the men in the politburo, standing in formal pecking order on the balcony in the Kremlin on the anniversary of the Revolution, had given the nod and decided to go the whole hog. These soldiers were, after all, descendants of the famous Red Army that fought in the Battle of Stalingrad and won the war for the Allies. Pakistan needs friends. For starters, Russia has offered to revamp the steel mill. But there is considerably more in the fruit basket.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.
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