RUPACH (RUSSIA- PAK- CHINA) AND THE INDO PACIFIC
Despite Russian efforts to de-escalate Indo Pak tensions, India has tried to down play it due to her hegemonic attitude and frustration with the outcome of standoff with Pakistan. Saner elements within India have already sounded skepticism with Modi’s ill-founded policy of ‘muscular approach’ vis a vis Pakistan. As reported by The Hindu newspaper on 2 March, Indian Ambassador to Moscow Mr Verma stated “I want to emphasize that we did not receive a formal offer of mediation. And even we do, we will not accept it. So far, no country has offered to mediate in resolving the conflict,”. According to the Russian MFA statement, Mr. Lavrov had expressed “Moscow’s readiness to promote the de-escalation of tensions and the lack of an alternative to resolving any differences between Islamabad and New Delhi by politico-diplomatic means.”
More recently during an elaborate interview with Sputnik News of Russian Federation, Director General Inter Services Relations(DG ISPR), spokesman for Pakistani military, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor explained the post Pulwama environment and appreciated Russian positive and proactive role in cooling down the hot environment created by Indian jingoism.
Gen Ghafoor also highlighted the growing relations between Russia and Pakistan and said, “Pakistan is negotiating defence industry cooperation with Russia in the areas of aviation, air defense systems and anti-tank missiles. We are having the aviation, we are having the air defense, we are having the anti-tank domain, which we are negotiating. And that will be positive negotiations”.
The spokesman declined to clarify which items were on the agenda of the talks, but noted that Pakistan was open to various offers. "Nothing is out. Anything and everything, which is possible to be purchased by Pakistan, will be done," Ghafoor said.
"We greatly value the relevance and importance of Russia in the region, especially what role Russia has lately played toward the Afghan reconciliation. Russia looks toward balance of power and multi-polarity in the world. We value Russia's voice as the voice of reason, and we would love if Russia, being a powerful country, plays its role which enables bringing peace in South Asia and beyond. And we expect that Russia will do it, as the efforts in fact being undertaken by Russia are generating good results," Ghafoor said.
Before I dwell upon the growing relations between Russia and Pakistan, it may be pertinent to talk about how multilateralism in Eurasia and the Indo Pacific is affecting the triangle of Russia-Pakistan and India.
It may be of value to discern the underlining currents in the intellectual debate held in Jan 2019 in New Delhi, called the Raisina Dialogue 2019.
One of the discussion forum with participation from Russian delegates representing prestigious think tanks was titled ‘The Arrival of Global Politics: Navigating a Multi-perspective World Order, moderated by Feodor Lukyanov of Valdai Club and was participated by delegates from the US, India, China as well.
The Indian delegate Indrani Bagchshe cherished the role being assigned to India in the Indo Pacific as legitimate, while referring to Trump’s unilateralism and disruption, she equated it with disruption and unilateralism by blatantly saying that when Russia walked into Ukraine and China walked into South China Sea, there was unilateralism. She also boasted that India will have Quad(the military cooperation mechanism built upon participation from India, Japan, Australia and the US) to make sure she gains her strategic space in the Indo Pacific and expand it further into West Pacific and the gulfs connecting Indian ocean with Mediterranean and Africa.
Russian delegate Anton Tsvetov (advisor to Chairman Centre for Strategic Research) talked about emerging concepts and initiatives like Belt and Road and Eurasia, a version of Mega regional initiatives in the wider quest for managed globalization. He also said that the new dilemma facing states is not only inter-state but also intra-state where states are becoming uncomfortable with chaotic forces within.
General Evgeny Buzhinsky from Russia proposed that any Strategic Arms Control mechanism in future will have to involve Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea as well, thus a Multilateral Arms control system was the only way the world could manage the Strategic Arms.
Chinese scholar Ms Yang Yanyi observed that there was an apparent deficiency of wisdom in policy advisors and strategists in the West, especially those who propagate a new Cold War, disruption of global supply chain and erecting political obstacles to even cultural exchange and economic development.
Although it may be premature to comment on the feeling of Russian and Chinese delegates in Raisina Dialogue, I am sure they took the Indian thoughts with a pinch of salt, especially when Indian delegate Ms Indirani openly talked of Quad and tagged Russia and China with disruptive forces in one breath.
Russia Pakistan relations have now started crystalizing and have the potential to move beyond military cooperation. Taking help from my colleagues Kauravi and Umar Waqar, who authored an article published in the prestigious Pakistani newspaper the Nation on 23rd Feb 2018, I will dwell upon the idea of RUPACH, or Russia-Pakistan- China triangle by quoting six important take-away from the article:
- “The convergence of geopolitical and geo-economic interests of these states (RUPACH) is clearly discernable. Whether it be the quest for collective security, terrorism emanating from Afghanistan-India-US nexus, opening of new strategic corridors of development or the drive for multilateral cooperation in checking the emerging realities in Indo Pacific and the larger Eurasia, all point to commonality of interest”.
- “Global Geo Economic power grid has decisively shifted towards Eurasia, the region is no more dependent on Anglo American and Western dominance of world financial system; the region can stand on its own due to existence of the production depository and market in one strategic space. The Pan Eurasian big space as projected by President Putin and Alexander Dugin is no more a dream but a reality”.
- “Global connectivity through internet and remote communication can allow free flow of ideas by using information technology; this phenomenal change has brought down the old barriers of language, faith, culture and even civilizations, leading to creation of fraternity of brotherhood and collective peace”.
- “The region is also fed up and weary of perpetual wars and conflicts, the fraternity of brotherhood is no more zonked by cacophony of neo-liberalism and capitalism, the region needs someone to lead two billion people into a new era of peace, prosperity and inclusive development.
- “Those who projected the isolation of Pakistan may be frustrated; the morphing and mutation of the idea of RUPACH should be discussed in Pakistan as well as in Russian and Chinese think tanks and academia; it may not be farfetched to say that the idea of RUPACH, along with corridors of economic development like CPEC and Belt and Road, may become the harbinger of peace for entire Eurasia. Meanwhile we may witness a contest between the contemporary traditionalist imperialist block hiding behind the façade of neo-liberalism and the proponents of Eurasia, can RUPACH be the new kid on the block in the emerging order of nations?”
- “US has established global dictatorship, with de-facto power to decide who is right and who is wrong and who should be punished. There is a need for global community to fight against it”.
The idea of RUPACH needs a strategic road map, some of the suggested ideas by Kauravi and Umar Waqar can be discussed through formal and informal channels and a road map for next two decades can be charted to develop supporting strategies.
The strategic areas of cooperation can be in many fields; however the important ones could be
infrastructure development, energy (including strategic pipe lines and off shore exploration), mining, cultural exchanges, higher education, information technology, health sector, air corridors, maritime trade, agriculture and regional security. It may be pertinent to note that CPEC has already paved the way for helping the Eurasian dream of regional integration, which could become a bedrock for RUPACH.
For concluding my paper I will quote the Russian Moderator of Raisina Dialogue Mr Feodor Lukyanov of Valdai Club, who referred to remarks by the Chinese delegate Ms Yang Yanyi, “the World has to move from Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) to Mutually Assured Prosperity (MAP).